Avoid a Security Catastrophe: Upgrade Your System

Beverly Chamberlain is the Chief Information Officer of the Government & Transportation Sector

On April 8th, Microsoft will no longer be providing patches for Windows XP. This means if you have not upgraded to Windows 7 and above, you are putting yourself and your agency at risk. Here’s why.

With new patches ceasing to exist, the door is left wide open for Hackers and malware creators to exploit new vulnerabilities potentially causing new threats that will adversely impact your agencies. According to NIST.gov, between the 3 month period of January 2013 and 31st March 2013, Microsoft released 34 high severity updates for the Windows XP platform.  Of these, 28 of them were exploitable via the network.  While anti-virus software does help to correct some of these vulnerabilities, it is not fail safe in minimizing all exposures.

How does this affect you?

Your data can be compromised through Malware infections such as Worms, Trojan horses, or Viruses. If your system does become infected, remediation is costly and time-consuming even if you have the resources to address these issues. Remember that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

How can you minimize your risk?

  1. Migrate to Windows 7 or higher: this is the best way to mitigate against malware infections from remaining on the unsupported Windows XP’s operating system.
  2. Put a plan in place: prioritize your migration plan based on business risk and  secure your environment during the migration:
    1. Enable window firewalls for all networks with oversight firewalls needing to be opened
    2. Ensure your Internet browser is at a supported level.
    3. Apply an enhanced Anti-virus configuration for frequent scanning
    4. Remove user accounts from local administrative groups
    5. Run either:

i.    Microsoft Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit <or>

ii.    Application control product that only allows permitted applications <or>

iii.    Deploy Microsoft Software Restriction Policies to only allow permitted applications to run.

  • Purchase Microsoft EOL extended support: this is a costly option, but it could help in the short term to obtain assistance for Window XP with Service Pak 3 installed.   A better option would be to pay for assistance to quickly migrate to window 7 and or above.

For more information about this Microsoft decision, visit the Windows XP end of support page.

As of March 2014, Netmarketshare data shows Windows XP market share at 27.69% despite the end of life. That’s a high number for being so close to the deadline. To minimize your company exposure make sure you follow the tips listed above to reduce your risk. The sooner the better.

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