Microsoft has confirmed that it will end support for Windows XP and Office 2003 in two years.
Pete Voss, senior response communications manager at Microsoft Trustworthy Computing, said that both Windows XP and Office 2003 will lose support in April 2014 and encouraged all customers to upgrade to the latest operating system to help protect their systems.
The first talk of an end of life for XP was originally mentioned by analyst group Gartner in 2010, when it said that organisations should be looking to migrate to Windows 7 with a view to moving off Windows XP by the end of 2012.
Gartner predicted then that Microsoft would end support for XP in April 2014; by the end of 2012, new versions of many applications are not expected to support XP, it said, and independent software vendors (ISVs) will increasingly eliminate XP support.
Fortinet's Stefanie Hoffman noted that while there is an end in sight, this does give users of legacy systems two years to plan upgrades and migrate to more recent versions.
“Many users stayed with XP, forgoing the migration to Vista, known for its numerous compatibility and performance issues, before leapfrogging to Windows 7. However, over the years the legacy XP has become the low-hanging fruit as attackers have found more and more ways to exploit critical vulnerabilities in the ageing operating system,” Hoffman said.
“The eventuality of discontinued support for both XP and Office 2003 could possibly be the impetus for users to upgrade to newer systems fortified with better security controls.”
A survey in 2010 by NetMarketShare found that two-thirds of users were still working with XP; its latest statistics showed that XP was used by 43 per cent of users, while Windows 7 was used by 35 per cent of users. Vista was used by only seven per cent.
Wolfgang Kandek, CTO of Qualys, said: “Organisations and end-users need to start planning for their migration to a more recent version of the OS before Microsoft stops issuing any more security updates.”
Paul Henry, security and forensic analyst at Lumension, said there is a measurable security benefit in moving off Windows XP, adding that Vista's extended support will continue until 2017.