From next Tuesday [8 April 2014] Microsoft is discontinuing support of its Windows XP operating system and Channel Island businesses are being urged to have a plan in place.
The change will allow the technology giant to focus its resources on supporting and developing newer technologies, but could have significant security implications by ending automatic updates for XP users.
According to a recent study by virtualisation technology firm AppSense 77 percent of UK businesses still operate Windows XP somewhere within their IT infrastructure, with 68 percent admitting they have no plans to extend their support with Microsoft.
‘Local businesses that fall into this category need to strongly consider how they can future-proof their infrastructure and mitigate any security risks,’ said Rob Vaudin, Senior Consultant at C5 Alliance Group.
‘XP won’t stop running the minute the deadline hits, but Microsoft will no longer offer its security patch updates and won’t plug any major security holes in the future. The potential for this being exploited is huge; the support deadline is common knowledge and won’t be overlooked by opportunistic cyber-attackers.
‘Local businesses need to pay heed to this. A network is only as strong as its weakest link. The ideal solution is to plan for an upgrade to a newer operating system,’ he said.
For many businesses a full system upgrade is difficult, with incompatible legacy applications requiring the continued use of Windows XP and the transfer of this data to newer systems problematic.
Several identified ways to mitigate security risks for those who need to retain XP include the removal of unessential applications and installation of up-to-date antivirus software. Microsoft will continue to provide security information to selected vendors until July 2015. Internet access to XP machines should be restricted and the XP version of the Internet Explorer browser, which is not supported with the latest phishing information, replaced with an alternative.
‘There are steps that can be taken as a workaround for local businesses that aren’t ready to migrate data from their legacy applications.
‘However, businesses should have a long-term plan in place regardless of their situation. There are solutions available, for example the use of virtual application packaging. It may also be more cost-effective in the long term to look at replacing hardware elements.
‘The advice to those who don’t want to take any risks with their business is to contact their IT providers for information on the best way forward,’ said Mr Vaudin.