Industry Trends

Patch Tuesday: So Long XP, and Thanks for all the Fish!

By Richard Henderson | April 08, 2014

xp tombstone

Over twelve years ago, Microsoft released to the world what has arguably been the most successful and famous Operating System ever created: Windows XP.

The "new" Windows eXPerience was a significant step up from the desktop versions of Windows before it. While Windows 95, 98 and ME were basically versions of Windows running on top of Microsoft's stalwart MS-DOS, the new version of Windows brought the much more stable and robust underpinnings of their NT (New Technology) operating system to the desktop.

Users rejoiced at the time. Less blue screens! Less crashing programs! No more DOS viruses!

Of course, with that success came problems: XP became probably the biggest target ever for computer crime. Hackers set their sights on XP and its massive install base. Within months, it became clear that XP came with its own issues: MS01-059 warned users that a buffer issue in XP's UPnP could allow an attacker complete control over their machine.

Microsoft certainly made significant improvements over XP's lifespan: Service Pack 2, released mid-way through 2004 brought some fantastic new security features to the OS, including some major improvements to Windows Firewall and the creation of the Security Center. Automatic updating was also improved to make it less painful for users to keep their computers up to date (although almost always requiring a complete reboot of your machine).

Through the improvements to XP, and Microsoft's intent to make features like the Security Center a key component, words like firewall and malware became household words.

But time marches on.

Today is Patch Tuesday. A special Patch Tuesday. Today marks the final public patch for Windows XP. Yes, Microsoft is still providing some limited support to special customers who were willing to pay significant amounts of money, and Windows XP Embedded (often used in machines like ATMs and ticketing kiosks) continues to be supported... but for you and me, XP has been set adrift and left for the sharks to have at.

If you're still using Windows XP, should you be concerned?

Yes, and no.

If you're one of the millions of people still using XP - and current stats show about 20% of computers out there are still running XP - every day you keep using it makes you more and more likely to become victim of an unpatched exploit leading to malware infection.

There are plenty of AV solutions out there (have you heard about our award-winning VB100 FortiClient? It's 100% free.) that will do their best to keep you safe, and it's likely you'll be fine for the near future.

But everything ends eventually. Even AV support will dry up.

XP is almost 13. Maybe it's time you consider opening the gate and sending it off to pasture where it belongs.

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