So when does Windows XP actually die?!

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I think it is fair to say that unless someone switched your internet off a year ago, we all know that Windows XP’s days are numbered.

The original plan by Microsoft was to end all support for this rather old, but much loved operating system on 8th April 2014. Which although the operating system would still work you would have to be a brave individual to plug it into the internet. It was reported last year that Windows XP hacks were already changing hands for around £1,500. So that was that, Windows XP c’est fin, no more software updates and more importantly no more security updates or patches.

However, Microsoft announced a bit of a change of plan last week, whether this is in response to the fact that an estimated 30% of PCs are still running XP, or the fact that Windows 8 has done more for Linux than it has their own sales, we will never know. But nonetheless on the 15th Jan, the following blog was published:

Microsoft has announced the Windows XP end of support date of April 8, 2014. After this date, Windows XP will no longer be a supported operating system*. To help organizations complete their migrations, Microsoft will continue to provide updates to our antimalware signatures and engine for Windows XP users through July 14, 2015.

This does not affect the end-of-support date of Windows XP, or the supportability of Windows XP for other Microsoft products, which deliver and apply those signatures.

For enterprise customers, this applies to System Center Endpoint Protection, Forefront Client Security, Forefront Endpoint Protection and Windows Intune running on Windows XP. For consumers, this applies to Microsoft Security Essentials.

Our research shows that the effectiveness of antimalware solutions on out-of-support operating systems is limited. Running a well-protected solution starts with using modern software and hardware designed to help protect against today’s threat landscape.

Microsoft recommends best practices to protect your PC such as:

  • Using modern software that has advanced security technologies and is supported with regular security updates,
  • Regularly applying security updates for all software installed,
  • Running up-to-date anti-virus software.

Our goal is to provide great antimalware solutions for our consumer and business customers. We will continue to work with our customers and partners in doing so, and help our customers complete their migrations as Windows XP end of life approaches.

MMPC

Now I ready this through a few times and pondered over a few drinks as to what sort of species an antimalware was!

However in plain English it seems to mean the following:

On the 8th April 2014 XP machines will no longer receive updates including security fixes and hot-fixes.

On the 14th July 2015 all XP malware support and updates will cease.

So in reality this Microsoft missive has caused a lot of confusion and not really changed a lot, except that your unsupported XP machine will be a little safer against malware.

The reality is if you are still running XP I would still suggest that moving to something else before the 8th April 2014 would be the safest bet.

Security and Linux

Last week a quietly released report by the Communications-Electronics Security Group (GCHQ’s information security arm) announcing that that Ubuntu 12.04 was the most secure operating system tested (this included Google’s Android, Apple’s Mac OS X and Microsoft’s Windows 7, 8 and RT). Obviously this is great news for us as Ubuntu 12.04 is our chosen operating system and the backbone of our business.

So why is Ubuntu more secure than Windows? It all boils down to the way Linux (the family of Operating Systems, Ubuntu belongs to) works and is structured. There are several critical differences between the two systems.

Firstly its all about privileges, in a the typical small business set-up the machine user has administrator rights which in Windows means that user can modify or delete any file on the system, consequently so can any virus! Whereas in Linux even as an administrator you cannot compromise the system files, consequently if you did suffer a viral attack it would only effect your files rather than the system files, making the difference between a major disaster and slight annoyance and restoring your backed up data.

On the subject of viruses, these are most commonly spread though email attachments which when opened cause chaos. Whereas for this to happen in a Ubuntu machine the user would have to save the attachment, change its permissions to executable and then try and run the file, which is pretty unlikely to happen.

But people being people, there are viruses for Linux machines, these are much rarer than Windows ones, but nonetheless they do exist, that said these can be protected against with relative ease, and as I said earlier there are any reported viruses which can effect your system files.

Of course open source software being what it is there is a free anti-virus package for Linux called ClamAV which we include within our bundle of software, as well as a graphical front-end for it. In addition to which we also provide a graphical frontend for preinstalled Ubuntu firewall, between these two tools you are already reducing the risks to your security.

Finally and probably the most importantly keep up-to-date with the software updates, Ubuntu will helpfully let you know when updates are needed you just need to keep on top of them. Unlike some of the Windows updates these are generally fairly small files and wont build up on your system slowing it down. If you do want to keep system tidy and clean use the Ubuntu Tweak Janitor tool (which we include) to tidy up your system files and remove any unnecessary files.