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Time to stop using Windows XP

Windows XP support ends April 8, 2014. That means no more security updates. Microsoft Office 2003 support also ends on that day and the same problems exist for it. Neither product should be used after that date by any computer touching the Internet.

The First Problem

From the Microsoft site: "An unsupported version of Windows will no longer receive software updates from Windows Update. These include security updates that can help protect your PC from harmful viruses, spyware, and other malicious software, which can steal your personal information."

The Bigger Problem

There are strong signs that criminal hackers are saving their Windows XP exploits and waiting until after April 8 to release them. The value of an exploit is related to how long it can continue to be used. Normally, when an exploit is used and gets reported to Microsoft, they patch the problem the malware is exploiting. By waiting until after April 8, they will have gained an infinite life cycle for the exploit.

The Biggest Problem

Most of Microsoft's patches actually affect all their operating systems, not simply a single one, so a vulnerability that is found is likely to affect Windows 8, Windows 7, Vista and XP. When the patch comes out, it is immediately examined by the "bad guys" so exploits can be found to take advantage of that vulnerability. This way they can cash in on those who do not patch their Windows quickly. Essentially, Microsoft is alerting miscreants of flaws in their system and then not patching the XP version. So all those flaws will be exploited on the XP platform and never corrected.

The Takeaway

After April 8, do not let any XP machine (Or Office 2003 program) touch the Internet or exchange flash drives that have "been around."

Date: October 2013

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