It seems just as we become comfortable with technology, something new comes along and makes it obsolete. In this case, an old operating system is getting near the end of its life. John Marshall, owner of Milton Computers Inc since 1988, is concerned about businesses and individuals still running the Microsoft operating system Windows XP on their computers. Microsoft's official website reads "support is ending soon" for the twelve year old operating system (OS) in a large heading on a page regarding the subject of Windows XP's end of life (EOL); soon in this case means April 8 of this year. “Software doesn’t wear out, it times out,” said Marshall. He said he wanted to get the word out to the public Microsoft will no longer be providing updates for Windows XP. He said he was surprised by the number of people who don't know about Windows XP's scheduled EOL. He went on to say computer users who are running Windows XP need to run to their trusted sources for help; he is just "ringing the bell."
Microsoft's site says end of life means technical assistance for Windows XP will no longer be available, including automatic updates help protect users' personal computers.
Marshall's first concern is with hackers. “Uncle Joe is no longer protected with using this operating system. It is almost inevitable he’ll be attacked,” said Marshall. He said Windows XP will not stop functioning, but Microsoft will stop supplying updates to the OS. He said hackers will continue to find holes in programs reliant on Windows XP and will be successful since these third party programs will not receive patches from Microsoft when they report a problem. He also said these hackers may see an opportunity with computer users who resist or cannot afford updating to Windows 7 or Windows 8.1.
This problem may affect people who don't use computers themselves. Marshall said a contact of his visiting a large chain gas station noticed the computers, during a reboot, flashed the Windows XP screen. He said he was concerned since so many people who pay for gas with credit cards may be at risk if these stations do not make the switch.
Marshall said HIPAA compliance was a problem related to Windows XP as well. Additive Analytics is a company using electronic medical records to find patterns in order to assist hospitals. The company's blog reported similar concerns, which said HIPAA compliance requires that organizations keeping private, personal health information must ensure protection from malevolent software. He said doctors may fall out of compliance and be forced to spend the money to upgrade to a modern OS. However, he said the lack of information is more expensive.
On the everyday user level, he said Windows XP's EOL means no new driver support. Microsoft's official site says drivers are software allowing computers to communicate with hardware or other devices. Marshall said new printers, as an example, may soon not run on a computer with Windows XP since companies will not spend the money to install drivers to work with an outdated OS.
Marshall's outlook for companies still using Windows XP was not bright. He said they'll either have to spend the money to update to a later OS or risk the unknown hackers represent after April 8. He said this could result in a hit to shareholders. However, he said the larger hit would be a major cyber attack.
Marshall said the EOL for Windows XP is a bigger deal than for operating systems in the past because during the program's lifespan, computer usage has increased dramatically. He said people used to be afraid to make purchases online.
He contrasted this situation with Y2K, during the year 2000, where software needed to be compliant for the four-digit date. “Computer repair experts knew what the problem was. They could get into a program and fix the date. However, in this instance, nobody knows where the problems in Windows XP will appear,” said Marshall.