Support for Windows XP has now ended as Microsoft said it would no longer support Windows XP after April 8, 2014. Since the announcement of Microsoft’s 8 April support deadline, numerous media outlets and computer experts have talked about potential risks arising from a post-XP support world and advised Windows XP users to upgrade to latest versions.
Given that the average after-sale service period for home appliances generally spans up to three years, Windows XP users may find it difficult to justify their criticism of Microsoft’s decision because Microsoft had offered updates services for over a decade since the launch of Windows XP. As a result, users now have to decide whether they will jettison Windows XP and switch to latest versions or continue with it.
Against this backdrop, I would like to take a moment to go over the two conflicting views about XP usage, with a view to helping Windows XP users make their own decisions with ease. Personally speaking, I think either would be fine.
Moving on from Windows XP is the right thing to do.
Simply put, Windows XP should not be used anymore. Using Windows XP in a situation where security updates for which are no longer available is an irresponsible choice that would put you in harm’s way, let alone others. If your computer is not connected to the Internet, it is OK for you to continue with Windows XP or even its previous versions. However, once you get your computer hooked up to the Internet, using Windows XP will get blown out of proportion.
Say a hacker tries to infect your computer with malware via the Internet. As soon as you turn on your computer, your computer will work as a zombie computer, which is remotely controlled by the hacker to do something illegal. You can end up being unwittingly involved in some nasty cyber scam.
The first thing that comes across my mind here is DDOs (distributed denial-of-service) attacks. Zombie computers will remain docile in ordinary times, albeit still under the control of hackers, but when something juicy catches their eye, hackers can mobilize all the zombie computers at their command to launch DDOs attacks on the target. All the mobilized zombie computers either access a certain website repeatedly or send out data until the website either malfunctions or shuts down owing to traffic overload.
Such zombie computers have thus far made their presence widely felt: they thwarted voters’ access to the websites of National Election Commission of S. Korea during the October 2011 South Korean by-election and attacked the websites of certain banks and media outlets. Recently, DDOs attacks on illegal online gambling or porno sites have frequently occurred as many gambling or porno website owners hired hackers to take rivaling websites down, consequently attracting more traffic to their websites.
Yet, what you should be worried about the most is not DDOs attacks. The worse problem is that you can be the target of cyber crime. Your computer infected with malware allows the hacker to not only control your computer but also steal information regarding your online transactions and online identity verification process, which is required in S. Korea when buying items worth more than KRW 300,000. Hackers can go behind your back to shop online with the money in your bank account. To top it off, they can sign up for illegal gambling sites by submitting your personal information to them.
Of course, your computer serving as a puppet of hackers is not highly likely. However, given that the massive data leaks from most of the Korean financial institutions took place in the nation owing to their poor awareness of cyber security, the aforementioned risks could become a reality if information about your online transactions and online identity verification process fell into hackers’ hands.
Though calculating the likelihood of your continued use of Windows XP making you a victim of computer hacking seems to be an insurmountable task, it is clear that hackers will definitely regard Windows XP users, no longer eligible for Microsoft’s update services, as sitting ducks.
That’s not true. Vigilant management will protect continued use of Windows XP.
Those who urge users to desert Windows XP argue that the end of security updates for Windows XP will make XP users’ computers vulnerable to hacking attempts and probably will lead to a spike in the number of zombie computers, which are recruited for cybercrime if needs be. However, the funny thing is that though security updates for Windows XP had continuously been provided, the number of zombie computers did not diminish. Besides, in contrast to the growing population of zombie computers, reports on individuals falling victim to computer hacking have been rarely released.
Fears over the termination of Microsoft’s security updates for XP resulting in surges in the number of zombie computers and hacking victims remind us of the “Y2K Bug frenzy” back in 2000, which stoked up anxiety over the possible meltdown of all the personal computers and banks’ computer systems on January 1, 2000. But the Y2K bug failed to bite and nothing happened on January 1, 2000.
As a matter of fact, Microsoft’s decision to end Windows updates is nothing new. When Microsoft discontinued security updates for Windows 95 and 98, a great number of users refused to move on from Windows 95 and 98. What’s more, most of the XP users have not downloaded security updates offered by Microsoft on a regular basis. Still, what is the reason for few individual computer security breaches have come to the fore
General users, who simply enjoys web surfing, writing documents and watching videos, can continue to use their Windows XP in a safe manner as long as they install the latest XP security update and resort to some computer vaccines and fire walls.
In fact, no matter how regularly you update your security system regardless of your operating system type, once hackers take aim at your computer, there is nothing you can do to stop them. The reason why your online identity verification certificate has yet to be leaked is not because Microsoft continued to update Windows but because hackers did the math. They knew that what they could attain by hacking into your computer was too paltry for them to invest so much time and energy and run the risk of being exposed.
Those who have to seriously steel themselves against cyber attacks are not individuals but banks, hospitals, the government, public institutions and companies, which have used Linux servers for long without doing kernel security updates. No wonder hackers prefer hacking into high-stake websites to the low-ROI job of infiltrating individuals’ computers because the former pays off.