Staying secure upon the death of Windows XP

Extended support for XP will soon be no more. Tom Brewster asks if your business is ready for the deadline?

When Europol, Europe's policing agency, is warning about the end of Windows XP support, it's clear the situation has become critical. The head of the body's European Cyber Crime Centre (EC3) puts it bluntly: "People have to realise that if they connect to the internet with a Windows XP machine after 8 April, they will become easy targets for hackers. This goes for individuals as well as for companies and government services."

Such comments could cause various organisations to panic. A large range of critical systems, from cash machines to NHS computers, are still running XP. Yet there are solutions for those who haven't started on the road to XP migration and pragmatism is the only attitude businesses should adopt. "There are lots of options and there is still time," says Javvad Malik, an analyst at 451 Research.

People have to realise that if they connect to the internet with a Windows XP machine after 8 April, they will become easy targets for hackers.

Keeping security tight

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That said, extra security protections for XP machines are a must. Now is the time to ensure apps are up to date, flaws are patched, often-vulnerable software like Java is disabled where possible and basic protections like anti-virus are doing an effective job, Malik recommends.

A simple inventory will highlight where problems lie with XP. Companies have to ask themselves what systems are running XP, what functions they perform, are they critical for ongoing operation and  where are they deployed? "Answering these questions will help identify the first systems that need to be migrated, those running business critical tasks that are exposed to the internet," says Russ Spitler, vice president of product strategy for security provider AlienVault.

"From there, systems further from the core of the business can be added to the list for migration as they expose the business to a smaller risk. "

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