The Windows XPocalypse is almost upon us. After a legendary dozen year run, Microsoft will stop providing security patches for Windows XP on April 8, 2014. Without Microsoft's protection, all those WinXP PCs will have targets painted on their hard drives.
Nearly 30 percent of Internet-connected PCs still run Windows XP, and no, they won't die that day. They'll continue running like normal, but they'll be rotting inside, becoming increasingly full of security holes. Microsoft itself has dubbed the condition "Zero day forever."
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Look, let's be honest. You should upgrade from Windows XP right now if at all possible -- but not everyone can cut the XP cord so completely. If you can't upgrade, there are some things you can do to protect yourself. Make no mistake: These tricks are like sticking your finger in a leaking dam. They'll help a bit, but the dam is crumbling and it's time to get out of the way.
Understand the risks
When Microsoft says it's ending support for Windows XP, that means it will no longer produce security patches for critical vulnerabilities in the operating system. As time goes on, more and more critical security holes will be found, and attackers will have free reign to exploit them. Large organizations can pay exorbitant fees for continued custom Windows XP support, but those updates will never trickle out to everyday users or small businesses.
Smart attackers are likely waiting to exploit holes they already know about. They'll unleash their attacks when Microsoft has moved on. The problems will never be fixed, so they can continue to attack them until the last Windows XP system vanishes from the Internet.
Other software developers will eventually stop supporting Windows XP, just as they no longer support Windows 98, creating even more attack vectors. This won't happen overnight, but Windows XP will gradually be abandoned by everyone.