In case you haven’t heard, about a third of the world’s computers are about lose official support from Microsoft on April 8. Any computer running Windows XP will no longer receive updates or fixes to any vulnerabilities discovered after the cutoff date. Microsoft will continue to provide limited support to its XP-compatible security products, like Security Essentials (their free anti-malware product), but that is set to end sometime in 2015. Most antivirus manufacturers have stated that they will continue to support XP-compatible versions of their apps into 2016, but without core patches to the XP operating system, their efforts will be merely fingers in a deteriorating dike.
What this means for you:
Though you may not know it, your company or the vendors that service you may be heavily reliant on XP. Case in point – one of my clients relies on XP workstations to monitor environmental-control equipment (think air-conditioning and heating) and building automation systems, and some of the computers running these applications haven’t been updated for years, and in some extreme cases, the hardware may be close to a decade old. Hardware failure aside, the lack of support for XP going forward will mean those computers will need to be replaced ASAP, and may be a cost you hadn’t considered in your 2014 or 2015 budget.
Windows XP powered computers are likely to show up in places where they are used regularly, but maybe not by a single individual and are thus overlooked during the part of the regular upgrade process: kiosks (lobby directories, ATMs, silent radios), point-of-sale systems, document scanning stations, etc. Make sure you comb through your organization’s infrastructure for these computers, as they will become vulnerability points for your entire operation and could lead to serious security breaches. Unfortunately, rectifying these obsoleted workstations won’t be cheap nor easy, especially if they power critical systems, but in some cases it may be possible to port XP-only applications to Windows 7 and run them in compatibility mode. Make sure you work closely with vendors who supply this older software to determine what, if any, plans they have to bring their platform to Windows 7, and if they have no plans, it may be time to consider a new vendor or service.