01.Quarter of world's PCs left out in the cold
Official support for Windows XP has ended, but Microsoft
has stepped in with one last security patch for Internet Explorer. The fix addresses a so-called zero day (no warning) vulnerability that affects all versions of the popular web browser.
The “off-cycle” update is an automatic fix that comes just weeks after Microsoft issued what was to be its final security update for Windows XP on 8 April.
Despite the final post-support patch by Microsoft, Windows XP users are still effectively left to their own devices in the fight against hackers and viruses. Microsoft has officially ended future security updates, patches, fixes and online technical support for PCs still running the 12-year-old Windows XP and 10-year-old Office 2003. The official Microsoft updates help protect against viruses, spyware, and other malicious software.
The decision to effectively drop Windows XP has affected millions of PC users worldwide, an estimated 27% of whom were still using XP at the time support stopped. In Australia, that figure is reportedly closer to 30%. Even if you have third-party antivirus software installed – and you should – they don’t address all the system issues covered by Microsoft’s own patches and system updates. This effectively forces users to upgrade to Windows 7 or 8 to be covered.
Mainstream support for Vista, the Windows XP successor, ended in 2012. Microsoft had intended to end support for Windows XP seven years ago, but has been forced to keep maintaining it due to its enormous installed base of users who find it does what they need and don’t want to upgrade. Windows XP was released in October 2001, and its development began in the late 1990s. Microsoft’s latest Security Intelligence Report (Vol. 15) found Windows XP SP3 to be more than five times more vulnerable than Windows 8, along with an 82.4% higher malware infection rate.
Since support officially ended on 8 April, the effective “safe window” for users to upgrade is closing. The longer it takes to upgrade, the longer malware makers have to concentrate their efforts on finding and exploiting security holes in XP, knowing that they won’t be patched by Microsoft.
While most Microsoft software is supported for 10 years, Windows XP has been supported for more than 12 years, longer than any other Windows version, and has been sold on computers as recently as 2010. Microsoft has been reminding XP users of the need to update for some time, via pop-up warnings which the company says will continue monthly.
For further information on upgrading your device, visit Microsoft's "Goodbye XP" web page.
If you don’t want to upgrade to Windows 8, or your PC is too old to support it and would have to be replaced, you could also consider switching to one of the many free versions of Linux, the most popular being Ubuntu.