More than a quarter of a million New Zealand computers still on XP: Microsoft

More than a quarter of a million New Zealand computers still on XP: Microsoft

Experts weigh options for enterprises as support for 12-year-old operating system ends midnight tomorrow.

Microsoft says approximately 260,000 computers, or around 7.5 per cent of the total 3.5 million in New Zealand, are running Windows XP.

While this figure is down from 300,000 last month, the percentage is much lower than global figures, which is around 18.6 per cent, says Microsoft on the eve of the end of support (midnight tomorrow) for the 12-year-old operating system.

“The number of computers still running Windows XP in businesses and homes around the country is alarming, as the risks of contracting harmful viruses and spyware is very real,” says Frazer Scott, director of marketing and operations, Microsoft New Zealand.

Windows XP was launched in 2001 and is now four generations behind Microsoft’s most modern operating system, he states. “The time has come to move on.”

Gartner: Plan to get rid of XP ASAP

Gartner analyst Michael Silver says almost every organisation will still be using XP after the deadline. But overall, he says when support ends, it is estimated 20 to 25 per cent of enterprises systems will have more than 10 per cent of their systems remaining on XP.

He says even organisations without Windows XP can be at risk when a user puts an unpatched Windows XP machine on the network.

Silver lists three ways these enterprises can address these security concerns.

The first, he says, is “plan to get rid of XP ASAP”.

The second is to reduce user rights on the machines and restrict the PC to run only “known good applications” and to minimise web browsing and email use on those PCs.

The third is to move critical applications and users to server-based computing. “Where users or applications can’t be moved for regular use due to licensing, cost, or capacity issues, have the applications installed for server access in case of emergency,” says Silver, in a primer prepared for organisations working on migrating off XP.

Silver says companies getting off Windows XP need to address key issues first.

“While most applications now support Windows 7, it’s possible an organisation has very old applications or versions that don’t. Application testing is of paramount concern,” he states.

“Organisations need to decide whether to deploy Windows 7 or Windows 8. A migration to Windows 7 will likely be faster, but one to Windows 8 will have more longevity – Windows 7 support ends in January 2020, less than six years away, and organisations that are so late on Windows XP should not get into the same situation with end of Windows 7 support.

“For many, the best alternative would be to deploy Windows 7 for the most critical users and applications now and working to be able to start deploying Windows 8 starting early in 2015.”

Microsoft's Frazer Scott says organisations still using Windows XP beyond the cut-off date may have to deal with issues such as:

  • Spyware accessing personal information from your PC including passwords and other private material.

  • Constantly being re-directed to malicious websites.

  • Sending or receiving spam emails.

  • The loss of valuable data stored on your PC: photos, videos, documents, emails.

  • PCs running slowly or being locked out altogether.

  • Banking transactions could be compromised.

Ty Miller, CEO of Threat Intelligence, says it is safe to assume hackers and malware developers will hold off launching attacks on the system, as Microsoft would be forced to release patches that would reduce the exploit value.

He expects the exploits to be released gradually over the next year. A more serious concern, he states, is the number of exploits and malware "sitting out there waiting to be unleashed in the year after XP is no longer patched".

Microsoft has created a portal for details on Windows XP end of support and information on how to upgrade.

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