Microsoft are ending support for Windows XP on April 8th 2014.
The Microsoft server offerings of similar vintage are also reaching the end of their life, but in a more complex way. For instance SBS2003 support ends in 2015, but the Exchange component ends in April this year.
What does this actually mean to me?
The first thing to get clear is that your system will NOT stop working on April 9th. What is happening is that Microsoft will no longer be researching and deploying solutions to problems discovered in the operating system.
Here are some of the repercussions:
No more updates
If the malware community develop an exploit for XP, Microsoft will not develop & deploy a fix, leaving the systems vulnerable.
Publishers of software may no longer develop XP compatibility into their products. The most immediate problem is likely to be with anti-virus software, which will cease to update to the latest version, leaving your already vulnerable system even more exposed. Problems are also likely to arise with required updates to accounting and payroll programs, which may not install.
It will become increasingly unlikely that new hardware (such as printers) will work with XP. In fact, we have been seeing this problem for some time already.
Difficulty browsing the web
This is actually an effect of software incompatibility. Modern websites require modern browsers to work to their best, most of which won’t run on XP.
What are the risks I run after April?
It is most likely that anti-virus vendors will cease writing for XP fairly soon after April 8th, if they haven’t already. The most worrying issue here is that users may think they are still covered OK - but their protection is falling further and further behind leaving them ever more vulnerable.
Inability to run modern software
If you use your system for certain tasks (accounting, accessing government websites etc.) you need to be running up-to-date versions of the the appropriate software. If you don’t, the application may not run correctly - or, worse, run in an insecure manner. Web browsers are a case in point - the security systems used on some official websites use features only built into modern browsers. XP is limited to Internet Explorer v8 - the current version is 11.
Threat to the whole network
Many users seem to think that as they’ve only got a couple of machines left on XP, and they are not used for anything important, they don’t matter. WRONG. These are trusted machines inside your network. If a hacker gains control of the XP machine they are in a much stronger position to attack your ‘more secure’ systems.
If any of these come to pass, and your systems are compromised, you will have very limited room to defend yourself. If, for instance, data is stolen from an XP system and you are sued, then it would be most difficult to argue that you weren't negligent. As business owners / directors you would be carrying the can - and your insurance won’t help, for much the same reasons.
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