If you thought you were the only one still using Windows XP, you are still in good company despite Microsoft’s widely publicized plan to end official support for the operating system in April of this year. NetMarketShare.com’s January 2014 report on installed desktop operating systems shows that an estimated 30% of the world’s computers are still using Windows XP, an operating system that is now approaching 13 years of age. NetMarketShare bases its statistics from metadata gathered by 40K websites around the world, so its also likely that this percentage may actually be slightly higher, as many XP machines are likely being used in legacy systems that do not require internet access to function.
In case you were wondering what that 30% equates to in actual numbers, there is an estimated 1.5 billion computers in use today. Based upon that number, it’s possible that several hundred million computers may continue to run an OS that will no longer get security updates from Microsoft, a number that has security analysts everywhere hyperventilating. Even though most anti-malware vendors will continue to provide support for XP, it will become increasingly difficult for them to remain effective on an OS for which Microsoft itself is abandoning.
What this means for you:
If you were thinking, “Well, this doesn’t impact me, I’m on Windows 7/8,” think again. Many cyberattacks are driven by zombified PC’s that have been gathered together into “Botnets” that can focus an incredible amount of processing power on anything they are rented to do, including sending out millions of phishing emails, spam and other nefarious activities. In the current state of desktop security, it’s commonly held wisdom that being targeted by a cyberattack is not a question of “if”, but of “when”. Cybercriminals rely on compromised resources to much of their dirty work, and their arsenal could become radically reinforced by the millions of computers still running XP, especially now that it will no longer be patched by Microsoft after April. If you are still operating PC’s with Windows XP, you should seriously consider upgrading those systems to a more modern OS if possible, and if an upgrade isn’t possible, replace them ASAP, as they will become an increasing liability for your organization.