You may have heard that on April 8, 2014, Microsoft is no longer supporting its Windows XP operating system. We want to help explain what this actually means for you and how you can protect your computer and data from cyber criminals.
All operating systems have errors in their code, typically referred to as “bugs.” As the bugs are uncovered by the software provider, updates or “patches” are released to address the bugs. Simultaneously, hackers write software that exploits the bug once they learn of it. When you update your system periodically with the software provider’s patch, you are protecting your system and the data it holds against any malicious code written to exploit the bug(s).
When Microsoft stops supporting Windows XP on April 8, any future bugs that are discovered will not be corrected or patched, so your system could continually be a target for attacks designed to exploit those bugs.
Microsoft’s standard support timeline for software is 10 years – the company has supported Windows XP for over 12 years due to its widespread beloved following. This is simply part of the normal product lifecycle so that they can focus on supporting newer software and technologies.
Post April 8, your computer and files may be exposed with little standard security in place. As Credit Union Times explains, “Windows XP will become a playground for hackers seeking to launch new kinds of attacks, and there is no saying what they will or won’t do.” Not sure if you’re running Windows XP? Visit AmIRunningXP.com to find out – you’ll immediately receive a message that tells you if you are or are not running Windows XP on your computer.
The exploitive software hackers may launch can do ANYTHING that an administrator can do on your system: read every file, delete files and programs, change file contents, use your computer to attack other computers, use your hard drive to share copyrighted and private materials, etc. Even if you don’t have confidential information on your system, just being able to hijack your system may be what the attacker wants.
Hackers can easily find your system – there are programs running constantly that prove every device on the Internet to determine what it is running as its operating system. The probing program may immediately install malicious software onto the discovered system or save it for future attacks.
Due to the security risks your computer will now be exposed to, we strongly recommend that all computers currently running Windows XP be upgraded to supported Windows operating systems (Windows 7 or Windows 8). We realize that for some older systems, upgrading may not be possible and may require the purchase of a new computer, but we firmly believe that countering the risk of running an unsupported operating system justifies the additional cost.
When you purchase a new computer, Microsoft is offering a free data transfer tool to assist you in moving your files and photos from your old Windows XP machine to your new one.
If you continue using your Windows XP computer as is after April 8, 2014, you should at least maintain a regularly-updated anti-virus product. These products can only offer protection against known threats – your computer may still be unprotected against new security threats that have yet to be released by hackers. According to Microsoft, Windows XP is five times more susceptible to cyber criminal attacks than Windows 8, the newest operating system.
As a reminder: Any software you have could easily be subject to the same attacks if you do not promptly update your systems when the software provider’s patches are made available. When the bubble on your Windows system indicates that updates are available or when your Mac pop-up window tells you that software updates need to applied, make sure to update right away to keep your systems and data secure.
Yes! Our team has a detailed transition and communication plan in place to protect our internal systems where your account data resides. You can always review our security policy here (available on our website’s disclosure page).
Microsoft has several resources you can review to learn more:
The company has also posted a phone support line to reach a Microsoft expert: 877.696.7786
* IDC Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker report, Q4 2013.