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Analysts have mixed emotions in bidding farewell to Windows XP

Derek Brink and Jim Rapoza | April 21, 2014
Microsoft's end-of-support deadline for Windows XP last week came with mixed emotions. After 13 years of XP use on desktops worldwide, saying goodbye to the most dominating operating systems of its time begs a question: Should we continue to use and turn a blind eye to our beloved XP, saving the real innovation for the tablets and smartphones we increasingly rely on?

While Windows 7 or 8 or whatever the next one is might have a long and useful lifespan, the time of the desktop being preeminent in computing has already passed. Thirteen years from now, who knows what we'll be using. It could be glasses or contact lenses or computing devices that tap right into our head.

But one thing for sure is that it won't be anything like a typical personal desktop computer of the last 13 years. Windows XP was the king of the last great desktop computing era. And the king is dead.

Windows XP, Thank You for Your Service, But It's Time to Move on

Derek Brink

I worked with Windows XP. I knew Windows XP. Windows XP was a friend of mine. But my colleague Jim Rapoza has it completely wrong when he writes that "there is really no legitimate reason to stop using Windows XP outside of the lack of support. Almost anything a modern PC user needs to do can still be done with XP."

For over a year, Microsoft has told us about the risks of continuing to run Windows XP after the official end of support. No more free or paid support options, no more technical content updates & and no more fixes or updates for any new security vulnerabilities.

And we can't presume that people have actually patched, fixed or protected the Windows XP systems that they do have to the most current level — quite the contrary.

As I wrote about in The Risk of "Free" Endpoint Security (February 2014) — Microsoft regularly reports a metric called computers cleaned per mille (CCM): for every 1,000 computers scanned by the Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool (MSRT), CCM is the number of computers that were infected by malware and needed to be cleaned. Microsoft's Security Intelligence Report Volume 15 reports that Windows XP has the highest infection rate (CCM) of any Windows client operating system:

Windows XP (SP3) — 9.1

Windows Vista (SP2 / 32-bit) — 5.0

Windows Vista (SP2 / 64-bit) — 8.8

Windows 7 (SP1 / 32-bit) — 4.8

Windows 7 (SP1 / 64-bit) — 4.9

Windows 8 (32-bit) — 2.3

Windows 8 (64-bit) — 1.4

This means that systems running Windows XP are 6.5-times more likely to become infected by malware than systems running Windows 8.

As with everything related to information security, the question comes down to risk — what is the likelihood that a vulnerability will be exploited, and how big is the business impact from a successful exploit? If you are thoughtfully and deliberately assessing the risk — in terms of both probability and magnitude — then by all means, run whatever operating system suits your organization's appetite for risk (as well as its fiduciary, regulatory and moral obligations to its stakeholders, employees, customers and partners).

 

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