Windows XP End-of-Support is not the End of the World

Today is the last day of extended support for Microsoft's popular operating system Windows XP.

What this means is that Microsoft won't publish public security patches for the operating system after that day.

Governments and businesses can pay the company to extend support further, but if your home PC is running XP, you are on your own.

Most news outlets in the world make it look like as if all hell will break lose come Wednesday. Chance is however, that nothing close to that will happen.

Think about it for a moment. Microsoft will release the last batch of public patches for Windows XP, and if it would continue support, it would release the next batch next month unless a new 0-day vulnerability is discovered that is in the wild already. So, one extra month to harden the system or switch to another operating system at the very least.

There is a chance that attackers have discovered a new vulnerability already that they will exploit starting today, but the likelihood that this is happening is slim.

And the past has shown that official operating system patches are not necessarily helping against attacks, as part of the Windows user base is not installing them at all or in a reasonable period of time.

According to Microsoft, the infection rate of Windows XP systems is almost twice as high as that of Vista or 7, and four times as high as that of Windows 8. The data comes from the company's own security products.

xp infection rate

It is interesting to note in this regard that infection levels for unprotected computer systems, that is systems without real-time antivirus software, are four times as high when it comes to Windows XP according to a Microsoft study from 2012.

The company expects infection rates to rise based on data that it collected after support for Windows XP SP2 ended in 2010.

So, adding proper protection to the system will reduce the likelihood of becoming a victim of a malware attack.

Protection

While Windows XP users certainly need to follow security guidelines to reduce the chance that their system is impacted by vulnerabilities that won't get fixed anymore, it is quite possible to protect the system from the majority of attacks that are developed after today.

We have published a guide on how to secure XP after April 2014 and suggest you take a look at it to improve your system's security to a point where most malware won't affect it.

Here is a short summary for those of you who are in a hurry:

  1. Make sure all other programs and drivers are up to date at all time.
  2. Use at least one real-time antivirus software (such as Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Pro) and an active two-way firewall.
  3. Use a sandboxing solution such as Sandboxie or virtualization for critical applications.
  4. Use common sense all the time, e.g. don't execute file attachments in emails without virus scanning them, don't click on links in emails or chats.

While Windows XP won't receive official patches anymore, it is still possible to harden it to block many attack attempts before they affect the system.

Closing Words

If you are running Windows XP and take care of your system, chance is that you won't notice any difference to before.

While I suggest you pay good attention to security alerts and releases by Microsoft for the company's supported operating systems to check out mitigation factors and understand attack vectors, it is not really something that you need to worry about in short term unless you do not use proper protection.

What will you do today if you are using XP?

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Responses to Windows XP End-of-Support is not the End of the World

  1. Paul April 8, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    Are all these 'doomsday' articles on XP bordering on FUD? Have no fear Linux is here.

    Why waste that old Hardware, its bad for Planet Earth.
    Get the most worth out of your PC as long as it works well.

    How to Break free from the cycle of Planned Obsolesce?!!??
    Stay safe with Linux.
    There is a very good chance Linux OS will run well with older hardware with lower specs
    Switch to the free, safe, secure & awesome OS: http://www.ubuntu.com/download
    Its the worlds most popular free OS. It has free upgrades & security updates. It has a free office suite, LibreOffice that comes standard along with other great apps/programs.
    For those who like the Windows look, I would recommend: http://www.kubuntu.com & for older computer with lower specs http://www.xubuntu.com or http://lubuntu.net
    Or try Linux Mint: http://linuxmint.com
    Because the Linux option is free & now so easy (user friendly) one must give it a try. You have so much to gain.
    Lots of people give their time, effort & money to make these great products that they just give the world for free. So they may not have the huge ad budgets & would need users like us to spread the word. Although its free, you are welcome to donate if you like the software.

    For those worried about Office 2003 support ending try LibreOffice or OpenOffice.
    Time to check out the free, safe, secure & feature-packed LibreOffice. Its truly multi-platform & takes just a few minutes & clicks to install.

    Try it now you have so much to gain: http://www.libreoffice.org/download

    Thunderbird is excellent as well.

    I feel most people should find it great. All they need to do is try it out 1st in a LiveDVD or LiveUSB.

    • marius April 8, 2014 at 2:30 pm #

      Ubuntu? F...ck Ubuntu!

    • Elben April 8, 2014 at 2:56 pm #

      I have switched to lubuntu. I feel like it is faster than windows XP. I would surely recommend lubuntu for low spec PCs.

  2. Nebulus April 8, 2014 at 10:18 am #

    I think that "the infection rate of Windows XP systems is almost twice as high as that of Vista or XP" should be "the infection rate of Windows XP systems is almost twice as high as that of Vista or 7".

  3. Olly April 8, 2014 at 10:46 am #

    I stumbled across this today, not really mind blowing but another way to harden XP - http://seconfig.sytes.net/

  4. fokka April 8, 2014 at 10:57 am #

    my thoughts about this topic are about the same. sure, in critical professional environments you'll want as much security as possible, but in this case still using XP in 2014 itself is a big offender.

    and as a home user equipped with a modern antivirus and firewall, visiting the same dozen sites every day it's not as you'd get bombarded with malware and targeted by hackers 24/7.

    not saying it's a good idea to continue using XP when there are better options as win7/8, or even going the linux route, but i do find the cries of "XPocalypse" a bit exaggerated.

  5. Q April 8, 2014 at 11:23 am #

    "Today is the last day of extended support for Microsoft's popular operating system Windows XP."

    This is not accurate. Today is last day for the desktop productivity targeted versions of the Windows XP family (Home Edition, Professional Edition, Media Center Edition, and Tablet PC Edition). Other version of the Family are still officially supported my Microsoft Corporation. This includes Windows XP Embedded and variants.

    Windows Embedded Standard 2009 (official documented name varies) and variants are scheduled to be supported longer than Windows XP Embedded. Windows Embedded Standard 2009 appears to be a replacement Windows XP Embedded (via rebranding, operating system is really still Windows XP).

  6. CoolCatBad April 8, 2014 at 1:03 pm #

    You know the whole Chinese economy runs on XP?

    Chinese hackers know this, and they have already made malware that will render an XP machine completdly crippled of all networking capabilities.

    Use IP tables to block all traffic from China.

  7. Keith April 8, 2014 at 4:34 pm #

    I guess my only question would be "How much longer will Mozilla/Firefox support XP?" For me, when the day comes that Firefox doesn't work on XP anymore, it's time to disconnect it from the web and keep using XP as a stand-alone system.

  8. baal April 8, 2014 at 6:28 pm #

    I heard nuclear missiles will start launching by themselves

  9. RG April 8, 2014 at 7:12 pm #

    MBAM is an antivirus?

  10. Matt April 9, 2014 at 12:55 am #

    In 2013, 92% of Windows vulnerabilities and 100% of IE vulnerabilities were blocked by running as a 'Limited User' rather than 'Administrator'. Just sayin'.

  11. Marc April 9, 2014 at 3:18 am #

    Please check http://www.neowin.net/forum/topic/1101401-windows-xp-like-windows-embedded-pos-2009-supported-until-2019/page-2
    If POS2009 updates are the same as XP, then you could install them in XP, if WSUS or Portable Update add support to it.

  12. b003 April 9, 2014 at 6:08 am #

    If I could afford a separate system I'd go for Linux.

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