HOUGHTON - Some users of Microsoft Windows XP received unpleasant news Tuesday when they learned the operating system would no longer be supported, but owners can continue to use the software with some increased security risks, according to David Hale.
Hale, who is the chief information security officer at Michigan Technological University, said although users of the operating system need not panic, they shouldn't be complacent, either.
"It's definitely not a sit-around situation," he said.
On its website regarding the end of Windows XP, Microsoft states: "As a result, technical assistance for Windows XP is no longer available, including automatic updates that help protect your PC. Microsoft has also stopped providing Microsoft Security Essentials for download on Windows XP. (If you already have Microsoft Security Essentials installed, you will continue to receive antimalware signature updates for a limited time, but this does not mean that your PC is secure because Microsoft is no longer providing security updates to help protect your PC.) If you continue to use Windows XP now that support has ended, your computer will still work but it might become more vulnerable to security risks and viruses."
Hale said Microsoft released Windows XP 13 years ago, which is about an average lifespan for their software.
"Windows has a life cycle for their products," he said.
The company tried to stop selling XP in 2009, Hale said, but it was too popular to do so.
Hale said Microsoft puts out operating and security updates for its operating systems the second Tuesday of each month.
"Often, they're adding on a new feature," he said.
Those updates have stopped for XP.
Hale said owners of XP who continue to use it do so at their own risk, particularly from hackers.
"They spend a lot of time looking for security vulnerabilities," he said.
If XP owners continue to use it for just email, Hale said that should not be a problem, but it would be very unwise to use it for such things as banking.
For XP users, Hale said it may be possible to get the newer 7 and 8 OS versions at a discount price from Microsoft.
"They're offering steeper discounts for you to move up," he said.
However, Hale said the hardware of many older computers aren't compatible with those newer operating systems.
Hale said there are steps users of XP can take to continue using the system until they can replace it, including: Make sure the Windows firewall is turned on; Don't use Internet Explorer for browsing because of security vulnerabilities; Firefox and Chrome browsers should be used. Both will lower security risks significantly; Use up-to-date anti-virus software, such as AVG, which has a free version (free.avg.com) as well as a paid version.
"Although these actions will lower your risk, they definitely will not eliminate it," he said.