If you’re running Windows XP at home or at your business Wednesday, April 9, is an important day – and not necessarily a positive one.
That’s because Microsoft on Tuesday discontinued support for the operating system, meaning no security fixes, vulnerability patches or software updates, according to David Usher, who is opening the office of CMIT Solutions Wilmington on Friday. CMIT will offer IT-related consulting and services from its office in Barclay Commons.
“With the operating system not being routinely updated there will be holes that will be exploited,” Usher said, pointing out the large number of patches and updates in the past from Microsoft for XP. In 2013, for example, there were 50 security bulletins, he noted.
Antivirus and hardware providers say they will continue to support XP. But Usher said that “those updates are important. Just having antivirus is not enough, and Microsoft says the same thing.”
The solution could be merely changing to Windows 7 or 8, he said. “Or it could be changing your whole business and how you process your information.”
It’s not like Microsoft hasn’t warned XP users. It started putting out the word in 2007 that the days of XP support would eventually end.
Computers continuing to use the operating system will be subject to cyber attacks, data and identity theft, hacking, and network intrusion, both via individual machines and across internal networks, Usher said.
The reach of XP is deep and the end of support could impact whole sectors.
“All businesses handling confidential data must have procedures to detect and report malicious software,” Usher said. For example, medical and insurance companies must follow privacy rules under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 – better known as HIPAA.
“Any company that is running XP on any of their equipment may not be HIPAA- compliant,” Usher said.
In the financial world, many of the world’s ATMs are run on XP, he said. Windows XP represents 30 percent of the world’s desktops, Usher said.
From an individual homeowner’s perspective, many people do their banking on their computers, tablets and other devices, he said.
“Once the security patches stop coming in, does that home computer become more vulnerable to hacking?” Usher said.
In the long run this may be a positive, he said. “The sun will rise on April 9 and computers will continue to run XP, but then the risk of operations or security breaches, the cost of support for equipment itself will increase, and productivity with users using the old equipment will continue to decline.”
Businesses may use this event to upgrade their security and to improve their networks, he said.