Friday, February 14, 2014

Why Windows XP Losing Support is a Big Deal

Windows XP shutdown screen
It's time to shut down Windows XP for good.

In the 1976 made-for-TV movie The Boy in the Plastic Bubble, John Travolta plays Tod Lubitch, a teenager who was born without an immune system. His body unable to defend itself against airborne pathogens, Tod has to wear some kind of hermetically sealed hazmat suit in order to, you know, not die. I haven't seen the movie, but Wikipedia says that in the end he takes off the suit and rides away on a horse. Presumably his character dies shortly after the credits roll.

Now let's take a hard left turn and talk about computers.

We've already talked about upgrading Toughbooks from Windows XP to Windows 7, but we've found that a lot of folks don't really understand why it's important to do it before XP loses support on April 8, 2014.

Computers are like the boy in the plastic bubble. They don't have immune systems, so they need a barrier to protect them from the outside world. Travolta's character used a sterile bubble. Computers use antivirus software, firewalls, security updates. Even though Windows XP has been around for 12 years, they're still discovering new vulnerabilities all the time. When this happens, Microsoft rolls out a security update to fix the problem before a new computer virus takes advantage of it. Think of it as repairing a leak in the plastic bubble. Last year alone, they found 88 new vulnerabilities in XP. After April 8, people will continue to find weak points, but they won't be people working for Microsoft, they'll be hackers trying to infect your system.

Microsoft won't be the only ones abandoning Windows XP. Antivirus developers and third-party security firms will almost certainly follow suit. As you read this, IT guys all over the world are preparing to block computers running XP from accessing their databases and networks. For good reason, too, because XP computers will be malware-riddled equivalents of Typhoid Mary, spreading virtual disease to others.

Considering that an estimated one quarter to a third of computers today run Windows XP, the consequences of Microsoft cutting off support could be massive. This is a story that deserves the same kind of coverage that Y2K had, yet it has received relatively little media exposure. Spread the word: Windows XP will lose its protective bubble on April 8, 2014. Your Toughbook can handle a lot of physical abuse. Don't let some line of malicious code destroy it from the inside. Upgrade to 7.

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