By Martha Michael
On April 8, computer users have a reason to feel insecure. That is the date that Microsoft ceases to support XP. There will be no more security updates or patches, which means anyone who has not abandoned that program will be left vulnerable.
“Hackers will exploit any vulnerabilities within XP security,” said Randy Salzer of It’s a Geek.com, a local IT support company. “That means that after April 8, any security holds that are found within XP’s operating system will not be patched by Microsoft. It’ll be out in the wild, vulnerable.”
People have been responding to the potential for problems.
“A few years ago there were 66 percent of businesses still using XP,” said Salzer. “Now it’s dropped to 23 percent.”
The move by Microsoft is giving computer users plenty of reasons to make changes.
“Windows XP doesn’t support the newest versions of Internet Explorer. The newer browser releases provide security patches and improved security controls,” explained Brian Cuda of ConceptiNet. “In addition, many websites do not support older browsers, meaning those people are potentially missing out on site functions and features.”
Hackers regularly hold “hacker conferences” to create plans of action, making the most of situations such as this one.
“Most of the hackers that will exploit these security holes will sell them to criminals,” said Salzer. “The going rate for a Zero Day exploit is between $50,000-$100,000.”
One modus operandus for hackers allows them to penetrate an ATM machine that’s running on XP embedded.
“They know exactly where to drill a hole in an ATM,” said Salzer. “They hook it to their cell phone and they tether the XP program … and they send a Trojan into the machines … and get the cash out.”
So, there’s trouble brewing. But, what should we do?
“Upgrading Windows XP will give the user the latest browser and open up a whole new world of Web browsing with increased security,” said Cuda.
Upgrade to something that is not XP. Moving to Windows 7 or Windows 8 would work.
“That’s the most sensible. I think probably a couple of days after April 8 won’t be a big problem, kind of like expired milk,” said Salzer. “Protect yourself: make sure you have all the Windows updates, install a really good anti-virus program, (ESET and there’s also a program called App Guard); you should update all your software (Flash, and Java, any Office programs, QuickBooks, Quicken; you should install the most recent driver updates, (you can do it using Device Doctor). You should no longer use Internet Explorer version 9. Switch to Chrome or Firefox.”
Salzer believes computer users need to be diligent, with the speed of technology and its changes. His IT Company is geared toward tackling those kinds of problems.
“We provide professional services to assess your situation,” he said. “If people have to remain on XP, with programs that will only run on the expiring operating system, we can provide isolation.”
Contact Randy at www.Itsageek.com or call (661) 513-3529 x101. To contact Brian Cuda, visit www.conceptinet.com.