Microsoft Pulls Plug on Windows XP, Workarounds Abound
By Jennifer LeClaire / CIO Today. Updated April 08, 2014.
The end is here -- Microsoft has officially ended support for Windows XP -- and software companies large and small are tapping into the opportunity. Indeed, it seems that tech firms are seeing a lucrative opportunity in Redmond’s moves to stop updating one of the most popular versions of its operating system.
First, let’s look at stats on the remaining usage. In 2013, more than 70 percent of Microsoft’s security patches affected Windows XP. After April 8, this trend will continue even though Microsoft will not explicitly state this, according to cloud security firm Qualys. XP use is dropping quickly, the firm reports, but according to BrowserCheck XP data from March, 14 percent of enterprises are still using the software.
“There’s clearly a large install base relying upon XP right now, and for these organizations I have two pieces of advice: Upgrade your software or decommission it,” said Qualys CTO Wolfgang Kandek. “While some uses of XP can’t simply be upgraded, examine if it is a critical component to your system. Isolate XP as much as possible, and limit dangerous activity on these devices -- including surfing the web and using e-mail.”
XP Workarounds Emerging
Or, you can use one of the workarounds emerging. We caught up with Darren Leroux, senior director of product marketing at WinMagic, maker of SecureDoc encryption software, to get a contrary view on the doom and gloom many are spreading about the end of Windows XP support. He told us a lot of security organizations in the industry are paying attention to end of support for XP.
“As an encryption provider, it means that change is being forced on customers to move to a more current version of Windows, versions that include features for enabling encryption of data at rest,” said Leroux. “This is a good thing, as encryption needs to be a fundamental part of any security policy. We hope that the upgrade will lead to a focus on well-managed enterprise encryption approaches.”
Meanwhile, other companies are suggesting a migration to a newer version of Windows but are providing ongoing support to customers that don’t want to or can’t migrate just yet. IT software firm 1E plans to continue full support for all its products running on Windows XP until the end of 2014 -- free.
Geoff Collins, vice president of product management at 1E said most of his customers have taken advantage of 1E’s technologies to fulfill a Windows XP migration. But he knows some will continue to run pockets of XP for a various reasons, such as complying with regulatory mandates to run essential legacy apps.
“While 1E recommends permanent migration away from Windows XP as soon as possible to ensure devices remain healthy and secure, we are committed to ensuring all our customers can continue to take advantage of the industry’s best and most effective suite of IT efficiency tools,” Collins said.
Rushing to Opportunity
Other firms getting in on the Windows XP end-of-life mania are:
Milton Security Group, which just announced a “special solution” for customers that have not migrated away from Windows XP: the Edge7200i security appliance that promises to help firms mitigate the risks of migrating.
"There is likely to be a number of zero-day security flaws released soon after April 8,” said James McMurry, founder of Milton Security Group. “These flaws will never be patched and business owners will need a way to reduce their exposure from this potential oncoming storm."
Robolinux is pushing its Revolutionary Stealth VM that lets you run Windows XP or Windows 7 inside all Linux Mint OS and Ubuntu versions. And UpgradeMyXP.com claims to offer an affordable solution for Windows XP users who will lose security support.
Here’s how it works: A customer makes an upgrade reservation and waits for the pre-paid shipping box to send his computer to the company facility in Kent, Wash. Once there, the computer is backed up, and receives the RAM and optional solid state hard drive. The new operating system is loaded and data is restored. The machine is then shipped back to the owner ready to go.