Windows XP diehards to fend off hackers on their own

Apr 06, 2014 by Glenn Chapman
People clinging to Microsoft's aging Windows XP operating system will be left to fend off cyber criminals by themselves come Tuesday

People clinging to Microsoft's aging Windows XP operating system will be left to fend off cyber criminals by themselves come Tuesday.

On April 8, the US software colossus will stop patching newly found security holes in Windows XP code that hackers could exploit to slip into computers.

Despite Microsoft's long-heralded plan to stop "supporting" the nearly 13-year-old operating system, it still powers from 20 to 30 percent of Windows machines around the world, according to industry estimates.

"I am sure you have everything from police departments to banks to legal offices to restaurants," Trustwave director Christopher Pogue said while discussing the extent to which Windows XP is still used.

"Think of a business and they probably run XP; I would say everyone is in equal danger."

US-based Trustwave specializes in helping businesses fight cyber crime.

Microsoft support entails regular security updates, but when it stops issuing patches to defend against freshly revealed hacker tactics aimed at XP, those using the will need to enlist their own software wizards or live with mounting threats.

Panic

Hackers might already know of new ways to break into XP-powered computers but be waiting until after Tuesday to attack because Microsoft will no longer step in to thwart them, security experts say.

"You are talking literally millions of computers systems that will cease to receive regular security updates," Pogue said.

"That is obviously causing a panic because of new vulnerabilities that will be introduced."

Microsoft has released several generations of Windows since XP made its debut in 2001.

The most recent version is Windows 8, tailored for a world enamored of touch-screen computers and services hosted in the Internet "cloud."

Given the rapid evolution of computer hardware and the short lifespans of devices, newer computers bought by consumers are likely running newer versions of Windows.

Of concern, though, are small businesses that stuck with XP because they have grown accustomed to it and it gets the job done.

Sectors thought to be more prone to holding on to XP include those with relatively unsophisticated computing needs along with emerging markets or schools where money is tight.

Particular worry is being expressed for automated teller machines, many of which are reported to rely on Windows XP.

ATMs could become vulnerable to hacking, particularly independent machines in small shops or bars that aren't owned by banks which are more likely to invest in software security, according to Gartner analyst Michael Silver.

Risky attitude

"In a lot of cases, it is that Windows XP is good enough and people didn't see the business value to spending money to upgrade," Silver said of businesses hanging on to XP as new versions of Windows came and went.

"It is a risky attitude, given what issues they could have. These folks knew this was coming, too."

The pain of "migrating" to new operating systems includes making sure software programs depended on by businesses will continue to work. Computers running Windows XP cannot easily be upgraded to the newest Windows version, and that means the users would need to buy new machines.

While Microsoft stands to benefit through sales of new devices using Windows 8, organizations resigned to the aggravation of system changes could be open to considering what rivals such as Apple or Google have to offer.

"The risk for Microsoft is that people will migrate to somewhere else," said analyst Rob Enderle of Enderle Group in Silicon Valley.

"They should have never allowed it to get this bad."

The global estimate of the number of XP-powered computers may likely be skewed by the China market, where there is widespread use of pirated versions of the Microsoft software, according to a post by computer protection analyst Graham Cluley at WeLiveSecurity.com.

Given that Windows software powers more than 90 percent of the world's computers, even a small percentage of machines running XP in any country could translate to high numbers.

Computers running XP will make the Internet a more dangerous place for everyone since hackers can launch cyber attacks from infected machines or valuable information about customers from businesses, Cluley argued.

The good news, according to analysts, is that the latest version of Windows is far more capable and secure.

Explore further: Microsoft hoping users will get friends, family to leave Windows XP

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User comments : 23

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freeiam
not rated yet Apr 06, 2014
It seems that MS doesn't stop supporting XP: the Dutch government has just bought a special service contract from MS for its XP machines.
So MS is still raking in the profits for it's completely flawed system. You have to hand it to them, they still know how to exploit the (fools) customers.
BSD
1 / 5 (1) Apr 06, 2014
You have to hand it to them, they still know how to exploit the (fools) customers.


That isn't hard, you must admit. They are exploiting very low hanging fruit here.

These users have had long enough to use something else, so suck shit if they lose all their data.

The main problem with MS users is they treat computer technology as if it were a frying pan or a washing machine.

Microsoft itself has to take the blame for this too.
Eikka
1 / 5 (1) Apr 06, 2014
So MS is still raking in the profits for it's completely flawed system.


How flawed can it be for nearly everyone be using it for 13 years and still cling on? Surely someone would have come up with something better in that time.

The main problem with MS users is they treat computer technology as if it were a frying pan or a washing machine.


Computer technology is a tool. It gets awfully expensive, inconvenient and time consuming if you have to keep replacing yours every six months.
osnova
Apr 06, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
BSD
1.5 / 5 (2) Apr 06, 2014
Computer technology is a tool. It gets awfully expensive, inconvenient and time consuming if you have to keep replacing yours every six months.


Well, that is the way of technology. As I said, it's not a washing machine or a frying pan. MS users keep trying to think of computers as domestic appliances and they are clearly not.

If users are not prepared to learn something about the tool they are using, then more fool them.

If open source software was used then business costs would come down. No one knew how to use MS products out of the box, users had to learn that.

Why is open source treated any different?

People don't like thinking or learning these days.
naryfa
1 / 5 (2) Apr 06, 2014
All I see in this article is fear mongering. As if the moment you stop eating, you die. The exact damn instant! I mean this is the level of the intelligence of this article!
gopher65
5 / 5 (2) Apr 06, 2014
Currently the Windows XP provides the same functionality like the Windows 8.1

Ok... So as one of the few people who is forced to use Win XP, Vista, Win 7, and Win 8.1 on a daily basis due to having different systems at work/home, I can flat out say that this isn't true.

Win 7 is massively superior to Win XP (and so is Vista, really, once you get up to at least SP1 (Vista 1.1, if you will;))). Win 7 is a little different, but definitely better in virtually every way once you get use to it. Just the lack of (non-hardware related) BSoDs in Win 7 is a joy.

As for Win 8.1 that's hard to say. My personal conclusion so far is "better new user experience than Vista at release, worse than Win 7". Everyone will be different. But if you ignore the crappy user interface for a moment there are some important advances (for people just use to Windows anyway) in Win8, such as much faster boot times. Anyone who installs updates to hundreds of computers can tell you how important that can be.
freeiam
3 / 5 (1) Apr 06, 2014
So MS is still raking in the profits for it's completely flawed system.


How flawed can it be for nearly everyone be using it for 13 years and still cling on? Surely someone would have come up with something better in that time.

Way better systems existed before the start of XP and where developed after it and still exist today. I didn't mention 'fools' for noting. Abysmal IT advice, managers without a clue and MS extortion in every way thinkable prevented people from using other much better systems until a few years ago.
chardo137
3 / 5 (2) Apr 06, 2014
I know a lot of people who are still running XP. Not because of money, or not knowing what they are doing, but because they hate the newer versions of windows. I haven't had a single person tell me they liked the newer versions of windows. I switched to Mac 3 years ago, and I will never go back. I am installing Linux Mint on my girlfriends computer. I find it strange that so many really smart people at microsoft work so hard and so long producing such an inferior product. THINK LINUX!
Doug_Huffman
not rated yet Apr 06, 2014
Computer technology is a tool. It gets awfully expensive, inconvenient and time consuming if you have to keep replacing yours every six months.


Well, that is the way of technology. As I said, it's not a washing machine or a frying pan. MS users keep trying to think of computers as domestic appliances and they are clearly not. If users are not prepared to learn something about the tool they are using, then more fool them. If open source software was used then business costs would come down. No one knew how to use MS products out of the box, users had to learn that. Why is open source treated any different? People don't like thinking or learning these days.
I jumped out of the M$ Windoze about a year and a half ago and have easily endured the Fedora linux learning curve (speaking of 6-mo. updates). I hope never to go back to closed source for-profit software.
timurlane
3 / 5 (2) Apr 06, 2014
The reasons why people have not upgraded from XP are many, but as Chardo137 keenly stated, a principle reason is that there really hasn't been a Windows release that has offered a compelling reason to do so. Vista and Windows 8 were fairly weak if not downright awful (I've no experience with 8.1). Windows 7 was a reasonably good OS, but upgrading from XP to 7 wasn't a simple task. Microsloth punished those who had not upgraded to Vista by requiring a clean install, so keeping your old apps required some special hoops and loops (and things really get both convoluted and pricey if you went from 32-bit to 64-bit).
I've seen nothing in Windows 8 that inspires me, especially considering the cost and aggravation. For less aggravation (and for free), I can set up a dual boot system with Linux Mint and have my cake and eat it too.
brunnegd1
5 / 5 (1) Apr 06, 2014
I have a work computer on XP, a home computer on 7. I have continuing issues with finding files under 7, I don't want photos in a folder named My Pictures. And it is not a subfolder under My Documents. The XP organization is much more useful. Plus, it would cost me several hundred dollars to upgrade to 7, with no obvious improvements and with significant risk of available versions of programs and drivers for 7. Tell me again why I should upgrade.
Nik_2213
5 / 5 (1) Apr 06, 2014
After being catapulted from XP#3 to 8.1 when a January storm repeated power-cycled our area, totally trashing my lovely, lovely twin-screen, ex-CAD PC, I must repeat my initial opinion that the new 'Metro' Winterface is no way to run a serious desktop.

Took me a long, hard week to beat it down from a 'jumped-up smartphone' complete with dozens of silly games and feeds to something I could use.

Oh, and who suggested the *stupid* half-open folder icon, that skews and half-hides thumbnails ?? Will some-one please go back and chastise both its inventor and those enraptured focus group members who nodded it through...

The lack of the 'classic' start menu meant I had to create a bunch of otherwise unecessary shortcuts...

The really silly part is that so much aggravation could have been avoided by a very simple 'power handling' style menu that configured the desktop environment to eg 'Classic', Win7 or 'Metro'. Job done. But, no...
{Weep}
Irving13
not rated yet Apr 06, 2014
A wonderful opportunity for XP users to switch to Ubuntu! Download the appropriate version here http://www.ubuntu.com/ 32 bit or 64 bit, regular desktop or server (600-700 megabytes) boot from the disk and install or just try it first - pretty easy. Its more than likely will ask you if you want XP side by side with it (xp will not be the first choice on the operating system menu that will pop up after installing Ubuntu on your computer when you boot.) Consider using an external USB drive for your data storage as that is the easiest way to access it from both operating systems. Your migration will have begun and there will no need to bother with Microsoft again. Ubuntu is free and being Linux it is somewhat more secure against viruses attacking the actual operating system unlike pretty much anything windows. Thousands of free programs to download too. A no brainer.
Irving13
not rated yet Apr 06, 2014
Windows 8 who really needs that shoved down our throats. Touch screen bah. Horrid windowing interface. Ugly. Need to relearn how to physically interact with the system. An abomination.
Irving13
not rated yet Apr 06, 2014
ABove, you have to burn a disk of the Ubuntu disk image download.
pntaylor
not rated yet Apr 07, 2014
Windows 8 who really needs that shoved down our throats. Touch screen bah. Horrid windowing interface. Ugly. Need to relearn how to physically interact with the system. An abomination.

It is not Absolutely necessary, to use a touch screen, with Win 8/8.1. However, I do agree, with the "Touch screen bah". I run a desktop and certainly do not want to be constantly reaching to touch the screen, even on a laptop. I will stick with keyboard and mouse.
And a question: How do you play games, like Battlefield or Call of Duty, on a touch screen??
ChrisWD
not rated yet Apr 07, 2014
For all the Linux and Open Source pumpers the minute Microsuks has issues (and this XP isn't one IMHO just upgrade to Vista if you can find a copy, supported until 2017, gives you time to buy new computer), and living it through the IT/Comm side of things in the real world, I must say WAY easier said than done! I tried to migrate to 3 different ones and go Open Source over the last 3 years to no avail. Since every employe (and only ~375 of them) have laptops and we don't use more than a few specialized workstations/desktops, we had a lot of Linux issues, all distros. And the biggest problem was, yes you guessed it, the end-users and in close seconds hardware drivers. So many complaints, it was unbelievable, every single time. Two main problems, ordinary users don't want hassle (ie: most end users that can only operate a PC), and Linux buggy hardware support. Absolutly NOT a fan of MS, but for dummy users, MS is the way to go if the company wants to pay all the usury license fees...
Eikka
not rated yet Apr 07, 2014
Win 7 is a little different, but definitely better in virtually every way once you get use to it.


Try creating a wi-fi network between two computers using ad-hoc so that they'd both auto-connect whenever on and in range with stored passwords that you don't have to re-type every time.

Not possible. MS took that option away in Win7, and while it's possible to hack the windows to remember the password, it's not possible to make it auto-connect. If you want to have that functionality, you'll simply have to buy a wi-fi router.

Eikka
5 / 5 (1) Apr 07, 2014
Well, that is the way of technology. As I said, it's not a washing machine or a frying pan. MS users keep trying to think of computers as domestic appliances and they are clearly not.

If users are not prepared to learn something about the tool they are using, then more fool them.


Open Source alternatives have consistently been harder to learn and constantly breaking and shifting and being incompatible with each other, while the industry and business just don't want to pay to adapt to that. Do you know Windows, Word, and Excel? Good, then we don't need to spend money on re-trainining you.

When Microsoft was introducing Windows 95, then 98, then 2000, then XP people were complaining that they're just trolling for money by forcing people to upgrade when they've just had all their stuff working on the previous version. That was a real issue, so the 13 year stretch of Windows XP was a boon to everyone.
Squirrel
not rated yet Apr 07, 2014
All the above comments miss how irresponsible Microsoft is--particularly to its shareholders. The smart thing would have been to threaten this and then extend support for another year at the last moment thereby giving the upgrade a big push without actually causing damage.

And it will cause harm to itself--Microsoft could not be doing anything better to improve things for its competitors. The only virtue it has is that it now gives obituary writers a date from which to start the story of Microsoft's decline, fall and maybe final disappearance.
gopher65
not rated yet Apr 07, 2014
All the above comments miss how irresponsible Microsoft is--particularly to its shareholders. The smart thing would have been to threaten this and then extend support for another year at the last moment thereby giving the upgrade a big push without actually causing damage.

They already did that three years in a row. They cried wolf so many times about pulling XP support that no one believed them this time. Oops.
MrVibrating
not rated yet Apr 07, 2014
Just a handful of W7 gripes not found in XP:

- no span modes (due to the crippled WDDM carried over from Vista)

- shortcuts to identically-named files in disparate locations get broken by the file system

- all too often it denies you access to your own files

- it misnames your hard discs; insisting the system drive is C: regardless of whether that's true or not (this breaks compatibility with additional OSes on multi-boot systems)

- global digital audio volume has been removed from the mixer, in place of individual volume controls for every app running (and like so many of its 'fixes' for things not broken, there's no option to re-enable this previous functionality)

And this is in no way an exhaustive list.. In short though it has a handicapped display driver model, erratic filing system, terrible organisation of the Control Panel items (try to find the option to disable the irritating window snapping behaviour, or re-enable the Quick Launch bar) etc. etc.

XP just works..
kkroy
not rated yet Apr 08, 2014
In third world countries ( read poor countries ) like ours, the main problem is MONEY. Changing the OS costs quite a few bucks. Upgrading the hardware costs even more. Then the cloud is a costly affair. The resources available in USA are simply out of reach here. Yet a computer is a basic need for most of us. So we continue with old systems, old gadgets, old vehicles - until they break down completely. Life is different. And you will find most XP users amongst us poor people.