Beginning April 8, Microsoft will cease to provide support for their Windows XP platform. No longer will users of XP have available:
- Technical support
- Automatic updates
- Microsoft Security Essentials updates
While most organizations have moved on from XP to more current versions of Windows, many still have workstations – and even servers – running XP. If your organization is still using XP it is important to understand the risks involved in continuing to run this operating system. The primary risk is that new vulnerabilities discovered in XP will not be addressed by security updates. Attackers will also be aware of the fact that XP is no longer supported and will make it a point to isolate machines running XP. Even if your environment is only running XP on one networked workstation, a hacker could easily exploit new vulnerabilities and use the machine as a back door to infiltrate your entire environment.
In addition to the security risks posed, many applications that currently run on XP may introduce new functionality that is not compatible with XP. Therefore running XP may also expose you to operational risk if your organization can no longer implement and execute essential application functionality. The good news is that most software that runs on Windows XP should also work in Windows 8. For those legacy applications that have trouble working in Windows 8, this operating system also provides a compatibility mode that runs the program using settings from a previous version of Windows.
If your organization is unsure of the impact that migrating to a newer, supported version of Windows might have on your day-to-day operations, the first step is to inventory the current machines in your environment that are running XP and to identify the functionality provided by those systems. The next step is to determine a migration plan for moving to a new OS and for migrating application functionality. There are three options to consider:
- If you have determined that the XP machine(s) no longer provide business value, you may simply choose to retire these machines and move on.
- You can upgrade the operating system on the existing machines to a current, supported version of Windows (typically Windows 7 or 8).
- Purchase a new machine altogether with a current version of Windows.
When considering option 2 it is important to remember that newer versions of Windows have additional hardware requirements that may not be met by older machines. You can use the Windows Upgrade Assistant to determine if machines are compatible with newer versions of Windows: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-8/upgrade-assistant-download-online-faq. If choosing to retire old machines, please follow proper protocol to ensure that 1) they are disconnected from the network and 2) that the information on these machines is properly disposed of in a manner that prevents recovery.
Although you may be familiar and enjoy the functionality and simplicity offered by XP and feel that moving to a newer version is an unnecessary hassle, doing so is a necessity given the sophistication of today’s cybersecurity threats and the rate at which attacks are increasing. Additionally, newer versions of Windows offer significant enhancements over XP that, while taking some time to get used to, will save time and money in the long run.
For additional questions on how to identify networked XP machines in your environment, or for assistance with migrating your organization to a newer version of Windows, please contact Chris Debo at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (614) 586-7108.
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