With all support for Microsoft’s 13-year-old operating system, Windows XP, finally winding down and the final update announced, the news is filled with the news that 95% of the world’s ATMs are running this soon to be antiquated ,and no longer patched for security updates, operating system. With banks scrambling to upgrade their ATMs’ operating systems ahead of the deadline, it’s also being reported that 28% of web users are still running this old operating system.
With the final security patch scheduled for April 8th, machines running XP will likely be hit with wave after wave of cyber attacks the morning of the 9th, and no matter how bad the consequences might be, there will be no fixes proffered by Microsoft. The tech giant has previously warned XP users that the end of support will be the equivalent of a starter’s pistol for hackers, particularly as they can scour subsequent security patches issued for Windows 7 and 8 for exploits that will gain them access to systems still running XP. As an illustration, Microsoft revealed that XP shared 30 security holes with Windows 7 and Windows 8 that were patched between July 2012 and July 2013, which would have given hackers the ability to reverse-engineer XP vulnerabilities.
The specter of this looming deadline is frightening enough that the British government has announced that it will be paying £5.548 million (US $9.2 million) to Microsoft to provide an additional 12 months of “critical” and “important” security updates for Windows XP, as well as Office 2003 and Exchange 2003 for all of the UK government agencies who are still soldiering on the antiquated operating system, though as a condition of participating in the program, these government agencies, 85% of which are estimated to still be running XP, must institute plans to migrate to a current operating system.
While it’s tempting to simply heap the blame on Microsoft for the subsequent Windows releases’ not providing a compelling reason for their customers to upgrade to their later releases, particularly as Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8 have been relatively poorly-received, this dropping of support has been a long time coming, even with the various stays of execution that have been issued over the past 5 years. That so many so-called “professional users,” major corporations and governments are being caught unprepared, to an even greater extent than the general public, is surprising.