Microsoft has stopped all Windows XP support from today, April 8, meaning no additional support or updates will ever be provided again.
Windows XP, which was launched in October 2001, is three generations behind the latest operating system Windows 8 that hit markets in October 2012. The current XP version is called Windows XP Service Pack 3.
"What once was considered low-hanging fruit by hackers now has a big neon bull\’s eye on it," Patrick Thomas, a security consultant at the San Jose, California-based firm Neohapsis, told to the Associated Press news agency.
Analysts say that if a PC is more than five years old, chances are it\’s running XP.
While users can still run XP after Tuesday, Microsoft said it will no longer provide new security updates, issue fixes to non-security related problems or offer online technical content updates.
The Redmond, Washington-based company said it would provide anti-malware-related updates until July 14, 2015, but warns that the tweaks could be of limited help on an outdated operating system.
Most industry observers said they recognise that the time for Microsoft to end support for such a dated system had come, but the move poses both security and operational risks for the remaining users.
In addition to home computers, XP is used to run everything from water treatment facilities and power plants to small businesses like doctor\’s offices.
Thomas said XP appealed to a wide variety of people and businesses that saw it as a reliable workhorse and many chose to stick with it instead of upgrading to Windows Vista, Windows 7 or 8.
Thomas notes that companies that don\’t like risk, generally don\’t like change. As a result, companies most likely to still be using XP include banks and financial services companies, along with health care providers.
He also pointed to schools from the university level down, saying that they often don\’t have enough money to fund equipment upgrades.
Marcin Kleczynski, CEO of Malwarebytes, said that without patches to fix bugs in the software XP PCs will be prone to freezing up and crashing, while the absence of updated security related protections make the computers susceptible to hackers.
He added that future security patches released for Microsoft\’s newer systems would serve as a way for nefarious people to reverse engineer ways to breach now-unprotected Windows XP computers.
"It\’s going to be interesting to say the least," he said.
Source: AP and agencies