As of April 8th, Microsoft has discontinued support of its Windows XP operating system, a system first introduced more than 12 years ago. This discontinuation of support is commonly referred to as a “sunset” within the technology industry.
If you’re a user of Windows XP, you might be wondering what exactly this sunset means for you. For instance, do you need to buy a new computer? The answer: probably.
Microsoft has suggested that you could potentially upgrade your existing PC to Windows 8 (depending upon whether your computer meets the Windows 8 system requirements), but in all likelihood, that’s not a cost-effective route to pursue because it would require that you purchase the Windows 8 upgrade. This will run you approximately $120, which is money you could apply towards the purchase of a new computer.
So, what do you need to know until you purchase a new computer?
Is your computer at risk of a security threat?
On April 26th, Microsoft confirmed a suspected vulnerability in its Internet Explorer web browser (versions 6 through 11). The vulnerability allows hackers to gain control of your computer if it is infected by malicious code. How do they do this? Well, the hackers send out emails with links to websites where the code resides. And, if you click on one of those links while using Internet Explorer, there’s a possibility your computer could become infected.
To get around this particular security issue, Windows XP users can make use of alternate web browsers, such as Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. Google has said that it will continue to support Windows XP until (at least) early 2015.
Microsoft released a security patch for the recent IE vulnerability last Thursday. They were even kind enough to include Windows XP in the list of systems to be patched. Going forward, we’d advise that you install Windows Updates immediately and if you plan to continue using your Windows XP computer to access the Internet—you only use Google Chrome or Firefox. Even then, your computer would still be at risk of a security compromise, but the odds are diminished some.
Is it still safe for me to access secure sites, such as online banking?
As a result of the Windows XP sunset, users of IE 8 (regardless of their computer) may begin to experience issues when accessing and logging into websites (including online banking). These issues could adversely impact the end-user experience, including limited functionality or a visibly altered interface.
Since Windows XP computers cannot upgrade past IE 8, again, we would recommend using an alternative browser, such as Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox. Non-XP users should upgrade their IE version to prevent any such issues from occurring.
For more information regarding Microsoft’s sunset of Windows XP and what it means for businesses and consumers, please consult the Microsoft Security Blog.