The Windows XP Zombie Apocalypse

The countdown is finally over for those looking for extended life support for XP (unless they've inked a deal). But are they still secure?

There's a lot of the usual FUD circulating at the moment, and many of the usual suspects have jumped on the chance to use the death of XP as some kind of 'out of the ashes' promotion for Linux.

Plenty of people who should know better have buried their heads in the sand rather than commit the time and money required to move to a supported, and therefore better secured, OS platform.

If your enterprise runs PCs with custom software for XP then migrate to Linux or so the argument goes. It's touted as safer than Windows and you have to start afresh anyway. While the 'safer than' part of the debate is questionable, it does at least have some merit, while the rest of it is almost certainly going to be kicked to the kerb on cost grounds. It will cost just as much, if not more when you factor in the broader picture of learning an entirely new OS such as Linux compared to an upgrade such as Windows 7 or even 8 for that matter, as it would to have software re-engineered to run under Windows 7. Unless, that is, the hardware is so dated that it couldn't run Windows 7 but could cope with Linux. In that scenario, the number crunching starts to make more reasonable reading. However, such speculation is perhaps best left to another analysis. Right now, we're more interested in what happens when enterprises do nothing and simply keep running their bespoke apps on Windows XP from tomorrow. 

"It would appear that some CIOs and IT managers have been busy mitigating the risks of Windows XP in another way: bespoke support from Microsoft. The UK government has reportedly paid 5.5 million to Microsoft to ensure support for public-sector bodies for another year, giving organisations like the NHS a little more time to complete their upgrades and migrations," adds Ovum's Edwards.

"Compared to smartphones and tablet devices, PC operating system upgrades are an ugly affair, and thus PC replacement is the preferred option. But the traditional PC replacement project is not what it once was, as there are now many more options and alternatives to be considered: Windows 7 vs. Windows 8; tablet vs. PC; Android vs. iPad; etc. But whichever option is chosen, moving on from Windows XP could prove transformational for employees and for businesses, as any change of tool brings with it a change in thinking and capability."

You can forget the 'Big ATM Meltdown' headlines, which seem to suggest that virtual armed robbers will have a heyday once the end of life date has passed as the vast majority of cash machines run on XP. They are wrong as these machines generally run on Windows XP Embedded, which is a different beast altogether and one that will continue to have Microsoft support until 12 January 2016.

Surely the big 'but' in this whole Zombie XP Apocalypse argument is the existence of real-time anti-malware protection software and services?

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