Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Countdown to Armageddon with End of Windows XP

It's the end of the world as we know it --- and thousands of point-of-sales for retailers and banking ATMs will be soon be at risk.

Microsoft is taking the 12-year-old Windows XP off life-support, despite its 29% market share. Microsoft will be ending Windows XP support on April 8th — and from March 8th onward, Windows XP users will start seeing a pop-up to the right.

Windows XP users will be the target of hackers very soon. It might help if you stop using Internet Explorer 8 and download Firefox or Google Chrome to use for a web browser if you can't update your operating system. Run a thorough virus scan (while you still can) and back up all your data onto CDs.

Microsoft will partner with Laplink, which specializes in data migration software, to provide Windows XP users with a free data migration tool dubbed PCmover Express for Windows XP to transfer their files and system settings over to a newer Windows operating system, whether you jump to Windows 7, Windows 8, or Windows 8.1. (More info here)

Once new security holes are discovered by the bad guys, they could be exploited over and over again by viruses and malware. Antivirus and antimalware software can help somewhat, but these solutions are generally more reactive than proactive. They won’t be able to thwart many (or any) fast-moving zero-day exploits.

An estimated 95% of American bank ATMs run on Windows XP. That means Microsoft will no longer issue security updates to patch holes, leaving those ATMs exposed to new kinds of cyberattacks.

In the United States there are 210,500 banking ATMs, about 200,000 of which run on Windows XP. Bloomberg cited a report from US ATM supplier NCR, which said that XP still runs on more than 95 percent of the ATMs in the world.

Ironically, bank customers have less to worry about from those nondescript ATMs found in malls, bars and tiny convenience stores. Those 208,000 independently-run kiosks (built by Triton, Genmega and Nautilus Hyosung) make up the other half of the nation's ATMs. And nearly all of them run on an even older, simpler operating system called Windows CE — which Microsoft still supports.

Windows XP is also used by thousands of retailers in their point of sale terminals, which also would expose them to hackers.

A lot of people and businesses will have to upgrade to Windows 7 or 8. Although Windows 8 and 8.1 are radically different, they have an additional three years of mainstream and extended support, but people more familiar with XP might want Windows 7 (but not Vista).

Windows 7 is almost five years old itself, but has been hovering around 47 percent lately; whereas Microsoft's latest operating systems, Windows 8 and 8.1, have about 10 percent between them.

Look for updates on the demise of Windows XP on Google.

REMEMBER: Microsoft will officially curtail support for XP on April 8, which means no more bug fixes, security patches, or other automatic updates. Starting March 8, Microsoft will start nagging XP users with a pop-up window reminding them of the cutoff date.

*** If you can't upgrade, scroll down half way down the page here to see your other options.

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