On April 8, 2014, Microsoft officially ended Support for the then 12-year-old operating system (OS). The result of this will be a slow degradation of security on the world’s second most widely used operating system, as vulnerabilities will no longer be addressed through patches / updates by Microsoft. XP’s version of Microsoft Security Essentials will also cease to be updated. And even Internet Explorer updates aren't guaranteed to include XP-specific code, which may be required to make the updates effective. The OS will continue to work, and some security company products will continue to Support XP – but the core architecture of the OS will become increasingly vulnerable. Users of Windows XP will do so at their own risk.
"So what should I do if I want to continue using my old XP box?"
Microsoft's recommendation leaves no room for leaves no room for the continuing use of XP machines. It recommends you upgrade your current PC to Windows 8.1 or newer, OR buy a new PC, with Windows 8.1.
But the reality is many customers will choose to continue using their Windows XP-powered PCs.
If you fall into this category, there are a few things you can do to make your remaining time on XP marginally safer.
- Understand The Risk.
With no new updates from Microsoft to address existing or newly discovered Operating System vulnerabilities, there is inherent risk in continuing to use a Windows XP computer. And while the Internet Explorer browser will continue to receive updates, Microsoft does not commit to including XP-specific code in these updates, potentially making those updates worthless for the XP user.
- Antivirus and Firewall is a must!
Be sure to use a reputable security solution; preferably one that automatically downloads & installs updates, like McAfee. Most sizable security companies plan to continue supporting XP computers until further notice. McAfee has committed to continue through at least the end of 2015.
Additional step for McAfee users - enable 'Intrusion Detection'. This extra level of protection is specifically made for users who do not regularly update their operating system or programs.
- Open McAfee Firewall settings
- Expand ‘Intrusion Detection’ folder
- Select ‘Use Intrusion Protection’
- Click ‘Apply’
3. Use an alternative browser
Google Chrome: This browser, according to Google, will continue to be updated for Windows XP until at least April 2015.
Chrome Updates happen automatically, but you can check here to be sure: https://support.google.com/chrome/answer/95414?hl=en
Chrome Plug-in Update: https://support.google.com/chrome/answer/1181003?hl=en
Firefox: Mozilla, the developer of Firefox says it ‘…has no plans to discontinue support for XP users’. No date commitment is provided.
Firefox Plug-in Update: https://www.mozilla.org/en-US/plugincheck/
4. Remove Admin Privilege for Standard Users.
It has been estimated that more than 90% of critical Microsoft vulnerabilities are mitigated by not being logged in as an Administrator. Hackers & malware can accomplish much more on a PC that is logged into an Administrator account, as opposed to a ‘Limited’ user.
How to change a user’s account type:
- You must have a computer administrator account to change a user's account type.
- Open User Accounts in Control Panel.
- Click the name of the account you want to change.
- Click Change the account type.
- Click Limited, to move the user to a safer state.
NOTE: As a computer administrator, you can change your own account type to limited, but only if there is another user on the computer with a computer administrator account. The computer cannot be without an administrator.
Ultimately, you’re going to need to stop surfing the net on a Windows XP computer if you want to retain an acceptable level of security. Over time, new exploits will be discovered and new hacks created, allowing the bad guys to gain entry on this non-supported operating system.
This doesn’t mean you necessarily have to throw away the PC. Here are some alternative uses for the old XP box:
- Disconnect it from the internet and continue using it as a Word Processor, for offline gaming, or anything that doesn’t require the internet
- Turn it into a DVR, to capture and playback TV programming
- Turn it into a Home Media Server, making it a hub for all your downloaded music & movies
Best to start saving up for a new computer, whether you go with a newer Windows machine, a Mac, a Chrome OS powered device or some other variant of Linux. The XP house has started to burn, and you don't want to be in it when it comes down.
Product Manager, McAfee Consumer Support & Services
Infected PC? http://techmaster.mcafee.com
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