Windows XP infections are set to skyrocket as Microsoft finally ends support for its anti-malware and malicious software removal tool.
Microsoft ended support for other elements of XP – such as bug fixes, free assistance and software upgrades – in April 2014 but carried on with the malware support to help customers in the transition away from the operating system.
But yesterday was the last day for virus warnings and updates for the popular Windows XP operating system which has been superseded by Windows 7, Windows 8 and – shortly – Windows 10.
Despite this graduated phase out of support, over 180 million computers worldwide continue to use the 14-year-old system, leaving the door wide open to attacks on these computers, according to security experts.
Security expert Graham Cluley said in his blog that continuing to use XP is “a risky business”.
Heimdal Security describes the situation for users who fail to upgrade to newer systems as a “never-ending zero-day situation”.
Many users including businesses and even the US Navy have been slow to migrate from Windows XP which was seen as (comparatively) stable and easy to use. The termination of security support may finally be enough to push the die-hards to upgrade their software.
However, if you are a Windows XP user – and plan to continue on that path – you will need to switch to another anti-malware product, such as Avast or AVG, or find yourself hopelessly out of date when it comes to virus definitions.
Microsoft said: “If you continue to use Windows XP now that support has ended, your computer will still work but it might become more vulnerable to security risks and viruses. Internet Explorer 8 is also no longer supported, so if your Windows XP PC is connected to the Internet and you use Internet Explorer 8 to surf the web, you might be exposing your PC to additional threats. Also, as more software and hardware manufacturers continue to optimise for more recent versions of Windows, you can expect to encounter more apps and devices that do not work with Windows XP.”
According to Heimdal Security's blog, other vendors are cutting support for Windows XP too, including Oracle which is ending Java support for Windows XP this month.