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Blogs

What are the real risks of still using Windows XP?

The total number of Windows XP based PCs still in use is difficult to quantify but estimates out in the number in excess of 1 million – do you have any?

The information about the end of the support by Microsoft has been well distributed by Microsoft, reseller, dealers, and all the different types of media covering technology. Yet despite this wide coverage so many businesses and home users continue to use the unsupported operating system – why?

There is a mentality of 'if it is not broken, why mend it' that accounts for a proportion but other reasons include the dependency upon legacy software suited to XP; the cost of replacing the equipment and/or software; and possibly, a belief that being unsupported does not matter as 'it won't happen to me!'

Whatever the reason, it is important to understand the risks associated with the continued use of unsupported operating system whether this is XP or the soon to become unsupported server operating system, Windows Server 2003.

Security threats are heralded as the principal reason as cyber criminals can exploit vulnerabilities in the software as the patches are no longer being provided by Microsoft. How much of a threat does this represent in software that has been around for a long time and the opportunities to exploit holes surely exhausted? Sadly, there is a potential coming directly from Microsoft when the company issues patches relating to currently supported operating systems as cyber criminals use this information to reverse engineer the patches and to test if a similar vulnerability existed in an earlier operating system like Windows XP.

Other risks include a decline in the support provided by software companies for older XP based software and may include useful developments not being made available to XP versions. Over time the lack of access of current features could lead to the business no longer being competitive.

Businesses seeking to gain accreditation to any of the information security standards, namely, ISO27001, IASME or Cyber Essentials will not be able to pass the auditing process without upgrading to supported software. These accreditations are becoming more widely expected and demanded by supply chains, regulatory bodies and HM Government contracts.

In summary, they may be some operational benefits from continued use of XP and certainly some cash flow savings but both of these benefits are short term and compared against the risks noted above, there is a strong commercial argument to develop a plan now to manage the systems out of your business and your home.

For more information about Windows XP and how to manage the systems out of your business, please contact Maria West on 01268 494101 or email maria.west@yellowspring.co.uk.

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