The bell has been tolling for Windows XP for a long time and even though Microsoft has given its 2001 operating system the occasional reprieve it looks like Redmond is set on ridding itself of arguably its most popular OS. As well as mainstream ending support, including security updates, from April 8th 2014, Microsoft will also stop supporting its anti-malware scanner – Security Essentials.
Microsoft Security Essentials helps guard against viruses, spyware, and other malicious software and new definitions files and updates are provided on a regular basis by Microsoft itself. At the moment the current minimum requirements for the malware scanner is Windows XP Service Pack 3, however according to Microsoft’s end of support for XP page, Microsoft will also stop providing Microsoft Security Essentials for download on Windows XP after April 8th.
According to the latest data from NetMarketShare Windows XP is still running on 29 percent of PCs that access the Internet. That is a staggeringly large number of PCs and makes XP Microsoft’s second most popular operating system in use today. More PCs run XP than Windows Vista and Windows 8/8.1 put together. Only windows 7 is more popular than XP with some 47 percent of PCs using it.
But despite its popularity Microsoft is pulling the plug in less than 90 days. Microsoft itself acknowledges that continuing to use Windows XP after the support ends will make your PC “more vulnerable to security risks and viruses.”
What makes this even more concerning is that XP is still very much under attack from cyber criminals and hackers. Only last month Microsoft issued a warning about a zero-day vulnerability in XP that allows attackers to gain elevated privileges. Once the attackers have system level privileges they can install programs; view, change, or delete data; or create new accounts with full administrative rights. December’s security updates from Microsoft contained several patches, some Critical, for Windows and only one of those patches didn’t apply to Windows XP. Extrapolating from this shows that Windows related security bulletins to be released after April will likely also affect XP but the OS will be left vulnerable. This means that cyber criminals will have a wealth of clues available for creating new exploits knowing that XP hasn’t been and won’t be patched.
By removing support for Security Essentials it seems that Microsoft is sending a strong message to XP users that now is the time to upgrade.