Microsoft has a huge challenge on its hands over the next six months: to not only sell customers on the greatness that is Windows 8.1, but to convince them that Windows XP is too old and too unsafe to use. As we've seen since the launch of Windows 8 last year, Microsoft is pushing consumers and businesses alike to ditch the old but popular OS for something a bit more spit shined like Windows 7 and Windows 8. Unfortunately, upgrading doesn't appear to be happening fast enough.
According to Microsoft's own numbers, around 377,000 PCs in New Zealand alone that are running Windows XP will be made vulnerable after April 8, 2014. Even more, those individuals and businesses could affect others who have already upgraded. Personal information could be put at risk as well as business trade secrets, customer account data and more. As reported earlier this week, hackers could reverse engineer fixes made to the newer platforms and see if the exploits work on Windows XP.
The time to upgrade, if it hasn't taken place already, is now. "We're well and truly at the stage where businesses and personal computer users need to upgrade to Windows 7 or Windows 8 – both to protect against risk, and to get the benefits of running a modern operating system," says Dean Edwards, Windows Business Group Manager at Microsoft NZ.
"For businesses, upgrading an operating system takes time," Edwards adds. "Depending on complexity, small businesses could take three to six months to upgrade, and larger businesses can take six months or more. We are really worried that some New Zealand companies are cutting it too close to the end of support date."
Earlier this week, a spokesperson for Microsoft said that the company will not guarantee updates of its anti-malware signature and engine after the Windows XP end of support date of April 8, 2014. More specifically, the rep said that running antivirus software on out of support operating systems is not an adequate solution to help protect against threats. Instead, a well-protected solution starts with using modern software and hardware designed to help protect against today's threat landscape… modern software like Windows 7 and Windows 8.
"In addition, Microsoft recommends best practices to protect your PC such as: 1) running up to date antivirus, 2) regularly applying security updates for all software installed, and 3) using modern software that has advanced security technologies and is supported with regular security updates," the rep added.
So how disruptive will it be for businesses to upgrade to Windows 7 or Windows 8? "We had 1,100 computers running XP in all our offices and branches, and migrating them to Windows 8 caused little disruption to the business," said Dave Veronese, CIO of House of Travel. "It was something we delayed doing for so long, but we've already noticed the benefit of using more up to date software and would highly recommend upgrading for the advantages of the new operating system."
In a chart recently provided by Microsoft, the number of Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVEs) mitigated by Windows XP's built-in DEP were surpassed by the CVEs that could bypass XP's baked-in protection in 2011. By 2012, that bypassing number of CVEs appears to have doubled. Now imagine that number after April 2014.