Securing Windows XP after the Deadline Just Got Harder

Securing Windows XP after the Deadline Just Got Harder

As you should know by now, Windows XP has a current shelf-life of about 90 days. Personally, I've never figured out the differences between the "sell by" and "use by" dates on grocery items, but a shelf life of 90 days for Windows XP is a hard-coded deadline. On April 8, 2014, Windows XP expires. And, for good reason. Windows XP remains one of the most easily infected Microsoft operating system versions. But, you sort of have to expect that from an almost 12 year old operating system. There are various reasons why companies are still using Windows XP including legacy and custom app support, but the fact remains that Microsoft is kicking the operating system off the cliff on April 8 with no evidence of turning back.

Recent numbers show that, while Microsoft would prefer customers transition to Windows 8.1, Windows 7 is emerging as the migratory winner. And, it makes sense. Moving to Windows 7 from Windows XP is a much easier passage. A real, true Start button still exists, whereas Windows 8.1's pseudo Start button would still require the cost of months of retraining.

I've heard from some customers that they will just support Windows XP all on their own. Once April 8 hits, Microsoft will stop producing security updates for the dead OS, except for those companies who choose to extend support through a paid, yearly contract. The contract is expensive. Even so, some feel that being proactive with firewall tactics and keeping antivirus signatures up-to-date will be enough.

But, Microsoft has silently made an additional announcement through their End-of-Support web site that may make companies think twice about it.

On the Microsoft site, a new blurb has been added stating that the April 8 date will also end the ability to download and install Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE). Microsoft Security Essentials is Microsoft's own antivirus/antimalware software and many companies still using Windows XP have opted to use the security software. MSE is a very adequate solution. It has a small footprint, is not a PC performance vampire, and, of course, is free to Windows users. Sure, there are many security products available. The security industry is full of options. But, most are costly and companies still running Windows XP are generally defined as organizations that don't have extravagant budgets.

There are still free options. One example is AVG. But, solutions like AVG receive more complaints than praise. AVG is notorious for consuming computer performance during scans. With most Windows XP computers running on older hardware that has been running slower and slower over time anyway, even a small amount of performance vacuuming is excruciating. I've experienced instances where employees would plan lunch around AVG scans just to minimize stress and frustration. I've also known where end-users requested support for a slow PC and the solution was to remove AVG and install MSE.

So, options exist, but they are limited.

Once the April 8 deadline hits, MSE will not even be offered as an option for Windows XP from the MSE web site. But, even if you jump out and download it now, there's a good chance that Microsoft will also stop providing updates for the security application.

Truly, it's best to just bite the bullet and work hard to eliminate Windows XP. I know some can't right away and I've also heard, due to budgeting, some have it planned but can't start until after the April 8 cutoff date. But, this is just another reason in a long list of reasons to get serious about eradicating Windows XP's grip on your company.

TAGS: Security
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