Microsoft is making preparations to phase out future updates and support for Windows XP operating systems. After 13 years in the cyber marketplace, support for XP systems will be terminated on April 8. However, users who have automatic updates enabled on their systems will begin to receive pop-up notifications of the termination date on March 8; a full month ahead of the shut off date. These notifications will also direct users to an end-of-service website.
Users will receive two final XP updates before the support service is terminated. The updates are scheduled for March 11 and April 8 respectively. After April 8, there will be no further support updates available. This end-of-service has the potential to leave many computer users vulnerable to hackers. If a hacker were to discover a vulnerability in Windows XP after the end-of-service date, they could continue to exploit it and possibly spread malicious software. The move by Microsoft to end support service for XP users has caught many off-guard and sent users into a frenzy exploring what options will best suit their needs and bank accounts. It is estimated that nearly 30 million XP individual and corporate users in the U.S. alone will be affected by this change and many more millions of users abroad.
One of the corporate XP users that will be most significantly affected by Microsoft phasing out Windows XP support is the banking industry. According to experts, approximately 95 percent of ATMs in the United States run on XP operating systems. Therefore, banking institutions will need to update to newer versions of Windows or face putting their customers and institutions at risk. The degree of exposure these institutions face is still unknown, but the potential for hacking and increased interest from cybercriminals would certainly be among the risks involved, not only for corporate but individual XP users as well.
Once updates are no longer issued, XP users will be able to continue downloading software from Microsoft’s website manually. However, the availability and extent of the updates that will be posted on the website is still unknown and could be subjected to end dates as well. Another facet of this seismic OS (operating system) shift by Microsoft is the simultaneous end-of-service termination of Microsoft Office 2003 on April 8 along with Windows XP, although that aspect has not received the attention that the XP support termination has garnered. This is not unexpected given that most Microsoft Office users have progressed far beyond the capabilities of the outdated Microsoft Office 2003.
With Microsoft phasing out Windows XP support, users will need to explore what options best suit their needs and budgets. Whether newer versions of Windows would facilitate user needs, many experts are recommending XP users upgrade to Windows 7 as opposed to Windows 8 because the interface is more user-friendly and more in line with what XP users know. Windows 8 has come under much scrutiny and the company has been bombarded by customer complaints since its release. This move by the software giant could also prompt many XP users to make the switch to tablets or iPads. The fallout from Microsoft’s decision will have repercussions; however, the nature and extent of these effects will not be known for some time.
By Leigh Haugh