The Risks of Running Windows XP

In case you haven’t already heard, Microsoft ended its official support for the Windows XP operating system on April 8, 2014. Updates and support for Microsoft Office and Microsoft Exchange ended on the same day. So what does this mean for you if you continue to run Windows XP? Unfortunately, this could put your system and data at risk.

Direct dangers

Windows XP

image from wikipedia

It has suddenly become even easier for malicious hackers to target Windows XP. All they need to do is look at the security updates made to the still-supported systems like Windows 7 and Windows 8, and reverse-engineer those changes to exploit the same weaknesses in Windows XP, which is no longer updated to patch newly discovered security holes. Although not all updates to Windows 7 and 8 are directly translatable into attack routes for Windows XP, many are – and hackers may use this to full advantage.

The problem is even greater when it comes to the Microsoft Office package, which includes the ubiquitous Outlook Express. Although it’s good to see more businesses turning to free alternatives like Yahoo Mail and Gmail, many or even most large companies still use Outlook Express. Many also use third-party plugins or programs to manage their Outlook mail, and these may be affected if Outlook Express is infiltrated. In turn, other files and programs on a system may also be compromised.

A matter of compliance

For businesses, compliance is another area where continuing to run Windows XP may pose a problem. Many countries’ data protection laws specify that systems must be up to date in order to protect consumers’ personal information. The Payment Card Industry (PCI) standards also clearly state that institutions need to use manufacturer-supported operating systems. So if you’re running a Windows XP machine at a store or business and are affected by credit card fraud, your claims may not be covered by insurance.

Upgrading

Whether you’re running Windows XP on just one home computer or on a company network, it’s time to upgrade, and fast. You should even make sure that any old, unused computers or laptops lying around have Windows XP either upgraded or at least uninstalled. This is because a breach of just one computer may provide a hacker with access to an entire network. So take a moment and have one last look around your Windows XP machines for any data you need to back up, maybe play that space cadet pinball game one last time and then uninstall it for good.

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