As I was writing this week’s article about whether or not unsupported software presents a security risk, something dawned on me.
Windows XP’s end-of-support date came and went. (It was back in April).
And nothing happened.
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Of course, prior to the deadline there were all sorts of dire warnings that The End was near. The speculation (clearly in hindsight, pure speculation) was that hackers were saving up known exploits to unleash on the world shortly after the deadline passed. Heck, there was even a conspiracy theory that Microsoft was holding on to fixes until after the deadline to leave XP even more vulnerable. Havoc would ensue.
Havoc did not ensue.
Why I rarely panic
As with most news these days it seems like headlines and stories are full of hyperbole and sensationalism to get our attention and our clicks.
And of course companies with an agenda – like Microsoft’s wanting people to move off of XP – often participate, or at least look the other way as the over-the-top predictions are made.
Knowing that this is how the world works, I choose to take a more laid back “believe it when I see it” kind of approach. The media, the press, and the industry have cried wolf too many times to take their dire warnings seriously right away. And this appears to be another case.
And that’s actually kind of sad. What it means is that exactly like the villagers in the story of the boy who cried wolf, we’re all much less likely to pay attention when a real alarm is raised. At least not until it’s too late.
But it’s time to move on
Now, don’t get me wrong. I do believe that it’s well past time to move on from Windows XP. As I outlined in this week’s article about unsupported software, you are indeed taking on additional risk if you continue to use it. The safest solution is to move on to a supported version of Windows … or any operating system for that matter. Not only that, but we’re most definitely seeing accessories and peripheral hardware like printers and such come along that explicitly will not support Windows XP.
But knowing that it’s not the XPocalypse that so many predicted does mean you have important alternatives.
For one thing, you have time; time to decide what to do. You have time to see what others have done, and make decisions accordingly. You have time to save up for a new machine, if you so desire. You have time to try things like Windows 8, or Mac or Linux. You may even have time to wait for Windows 9.
You also have time to balance or mitigate the risk. Rather than switching from XP immediately you can bolster your security in other ways, perhaps by limiting how you use your XP machine, or finally put into place that comprehensive backup plan you’ve been meaning to set up.
But the good news is that the whole experience has shown us that we don’t need to panic. Not yet anyway.
To be fair, it could still happen
I do have to point out that the disaster scenario could still happen.
I’m not sure how likely it is, but it is possible that a vulnerability might be discovered in the weeks or months ahead that applies to Windows XP. That vulnerability could allow bad things to happen. We don’t know.
What we do know is that we can’t count on Microsoft to fix the vulnerability. After this long, it would have to be pretty serious, and I’m guessing that the bar is extremely high right now for them to even consider looking at anything, much less fixing it.
We also can’t count on our anti-malware tools to protect us. Not only is their support for XP declining, even in the best of circumstances anti-malware tools can’t protect you from everything.
I still believe that if at all possible moving on from Windows XP to a supported OS is the best choice over all.
But at least the world didn’t come to an end last April.