Many home computer users out there still use an old computer that runs on Windows XP. Until now, this has been accepted for a couple of good reasons. First, Windows XP is one of the most solid versions of Windows Microsoft ever produced. Also, though it’s old, it still gets Microsoft security updates.

Unfortunately, this will be changing and home PC users need to upgrade to a higher version like Windows 7. The reason for this sense of urgency is because after July 14, 2015, Windows XP customers will no longer receive new security updates, non-security hotfixes, free or paid assisted support options, and online technical content updates from Microsoft. This means that any new vulnerabilities that will happen with Windows XP after its “end of life” will not be addressed by new security updates from Microsoft.

Here are some negative things that may happen to your home computer should you persist in using Windows XP after Microsoft has ended its support:

Attackers will have the advantage over defenders who choose to run Windows XP

The answer is quite simple and this is because attackers will likely have more information about vulnerabilities in Windows XP than defenders.

When Microsoft releases a security update, the bad guys will often reverse engineer the security update quickly to identify the specific section of code that contains the vulnerability addressed by the update. Once they identify this vulnerability, they attempt to develop a code that will allow them to exploit it on systems that do not have the security update installed on them.

But after the deadline, anyone that continues to use Windows XP won’t have this advantage over attackers any longer. The very first month that Microsoft releases security updates for supported versions of Windows, attackers will reverse engineer those updates, find the vulnerabilities and test Windows XP to see if it shares those vulnerabilities. If it does, attackers will attempt to develop code that can take advantage of those vulnerabilities on XP. Since a security update will never become available for Windows XP to address these vulnerabilities, XP will essentially have “zero security update” forever.

There is anti-virus software that can help block attacks and clean up infections if they occur. But the challenge here is that you’ll never know, at least with any degree of confidence, if the trusted computing base of the system can actually be trusted because attackers will be armed with full public knowledge exploits in Windows XP that could enable them to compromise the system and possibly run the code of their choice.

The Bottom Line

If you care about the data on your computer and you don’t want someone to possibly have access to it, or have the potential to destroy it, then you need to upgrade now. If you’re using XP, it’s likely that your computer is also very old, so it’s probably time to upgrade to a new computer which will have the latest version of Windows 7 or 8 and be supported in issues like this for many years to come.

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This entry was posted by Staff Writer on Tuesday, June 17, 2014 at 6:20:48 PM and is filed under Computer Security & Data Protection.

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