April 8th 2014 was a day that affected 27.7% of the world’s computers. That was the day when Microsoft stopped officially supporting Windows XP. Some big businesses and countries like China paid Microsoft money to continue supporting XP. Late last week a curveball was thrown at Microsoft, when they were told by research firm FireEye, that versions of Internet Explorer from 6 through 11 are listed as vulnerable, as well as all supported versions of Windows other than Server Core. Internet Explorer versions 9 through to 11 were the ones most likely to be attacked. As major governments (the US, the UK, and Australia) urged Internet Explorer users to switch browsers until a fix was found. Microsoft had to do something, so on May 1st they released a patch to all Windows users including XP users. If another major flaw is found don’t rule out Microsoft releasing another patch as there would be bad press plus major concern for the average XP user.
Windows XP is the most stable operating system that Microsoft has ever released, which is one of the reasons why more than a quarter of world’s computers still run on Windows XP. Another reason is the cost of replacing your hardware and software. When you upgrade your computers there is a high chance you will also have to upgrade other hardware like printers or scanners as they may not work with Windows 7 or 8. You may also have software that will not work on Windows 7 or 8. It could be custom made software or software that has to be upgraded because they are unable to receive Windows XP updates, which may cost you money that you do not have. For example, Office 2013 only works on the following Windows versions 7, 8, 8.1, Server, Server 2008 R2 (64-bit) and Server 2012 (64-bit).
Windows XP could also run on a computer with as little as 256 MB RAM, and if you are using Windows 7 or 8 the minimum needed is 1024 MB RAM (also known as 1 GB). The majority of Windows XP users are in Africa, Asia & Europe. You could be thinking well can’t they use Microsoft 365 which is Office in the cloud. Normally you would be right, but in continents like Africa and Asia you are not guaranteed a good internet connection let alone broadband.
Whenever Microsoft releases a patch for Windows 7 & 8 via its security bulletins, these patches are being reversed engineered by security researchers and unscrupulous internet attackers to see if the exploits they are designed to fix exist in Windows XP. Between July 2012 and July 2013 Windows XP was mentioned in 45 Microsoft security bulletins. Also its worth noting that 30 of those security bulletins also affected Windows 7 and Windows 8. Once an exploit is found then it’s only a matter of time before it is taken advantage of. Sometimes these exploits can’t be protected by antivirus software, and until a solution is released you may have to for example switch browser as in the Internet Explorer exploit which I already mentioned.
As long as Microsoft XP is still being used there will always be people who are willing to take advantage of this. As 50% of the computers in the world use Internet Explorer as their browser, with nearly 28% running on Windows XP you can see why they become an attractive target. So is it the end of Windows XP or a new beginning?.