On April 8, of this year Microsoft will discontinue all support for Windows XP, Internet Explorer 8, Windows Security Essentials and Windows Server 2003. Most of these will have little impact on us, but XP has the potential of getting pretty scary. If you are using any of these programs. Welcome to “The Trailing Edge Society.” While your Members Only jacket is on its way, you will soon have no other choice but to join the rest of society and upgrade, but there are some options available to you.
Windows XP has had a thirteen year run, longer than any other commercial operating system. That may not seem like a big deal to most people until you start looking at the number of systems still running Windows XP and what those systems do. There are still a great deal of systems running XP, 39% worldwide and that amazes me. Come on people you’ve had almost 7 years to upgrade!
Why is this all a big deal you may be asking? Because those systems will be at an even higher risk to attacks with Malware and other dangerous elements with no updates or fixes forthcoming. Not my problem you may be saying. Actually it is; the majority of those systems are ones that we the public access daily. Huh?!
We’re all aware of the Target/Neiman Marcus/Michael’s data breach that happened just recently. Most of those cash register systems are running Windows XP. Additionally,
90% of our ATMs are running Windows XP. If you think about the number of ATMs in the US alone, that’s a heck-of-a-lot of ATMs. So we may not think this is a really big deal but it actually is.
There is only a few weeks left before support for Windows XP is discontinued and Banks, Retailers as well as others are slow to upgrade these systems. The 70 million credit card holders effected by the recent attack should have given these companies a swift kick in the behind to get upgrading. But it really hasn’t, they are moving slowly. They’ve had several years to test and roll out upgraded registers and ATMs. So why haven’t they done it? That is what concerns me the most. What is the hold-up? Have they even bothered looking into upgrading? They really aren’t saying much to answer these questions.
Since it seems Banks, Retailers and others that have access to our financial and private information aren’t really coming forward to address our concerns on how they intend to protect it moving forward; we must do it ourselves. We must be more aware of the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How our information is accessed. We must be more vigilant and start monitoring our statements more carefully. There are also the Privacy Services that will monitor your information. I’m not a fan of them personally, but they do provide a service to many people and help ease their minds.
If you have a computer that is still running XP it is time to look for a new one. With that said, what about the others programs I mentioned? Those are much easier to handle:
Internet Explorer 8
HELP > ABOUT INTERNET EXPLORER
That should tell you which version you’re running. If you are using Windows Vista keep in mind that the highest version you can upgrade to is IE 9. I would recommend switching to FireFox, Google Chrome or even Opera.
Microsoft Security Essentials
This security software was actually pretty good at one point and it was free. When it was first released it gave Norton and McAfee a bit of a run offering a bit more protection in some cases. But as with many of Microsoft’s Free offerings, it was designed to get people to purchase the “full” version with all the bells and whistles. When no one bought it, I think you can guess the rest. There are a couple of Free alternatives to choose from as a replacement:
AVG Free – Basic Virus protection
Download the AVG for Windows Online installer
Comodo Internet Security Suite – A free complete Security Suite, Anti-virus, Malware protection and Firewall in one package.
Windows Server 2003
Server 2003 was a major release for the Server Operating System much like Windows XP for the desktop. Server 03 was not a “one size fits all” like some of it’s predecessors, instead Server 03 offered a variety of versions based on the needs of the company and it’s size; it was a solid product. If you have a server that is still running Server 2003 it is probably time to look at either upgrading or other alternatives. There are plenty of options available to the Small Business right now and more options become available over time. Talk to your IT person to see what those options are.
All of these products have had a decent life-span and have served their purpose there is a reason why support is being discontinued; to make way for newer and in some cases better products. Not many commercial software products can claim the life-span of XP or even Server 2003 and yet they were not without their flaws early on. But even with those flaws reduced there is no reason to continue to cling to them. Newer versions have been out for some time now and many of those bugs/flaws that were experienced at release have been fixed. So what’s the hold up in switching?