Today marks the end of support for Microsoft’s Windows XP operating system - but what effect will it really have?
The end of the Windows XP operating system (OS) means for those still using XP, there will no longer be any more security updates or technical support.
This could cause major problems around the globe as up 25% of all Windows users are still operating on the 13-year old system, despite Microsoft releasing three new systems since the introduction of XP in 2001.
One of the major fears surrounding the end of support is that PCs running Windows XP will be vulnerable to malware and cyber-attacks from hackers exploiting weaknesses in the defenceless system.
Microsoft has urged users still running Windows XP to “take action”
This has led some authorities, including the UK government, to sign deals with Microsoft to provide extended support for a further 12 months.
The UK deal, worth an estimated £5.5 million, will ensure support and security updates are available across the UK public sector.
Meanwhile, in the process sectors, many firms could be among those 25% of users still operating Windows XP.
Honeywell Process Solutions (HPS) president Darius Adamczyk said: “The Windows XP operating system is reaching the end of its life, with Microsoft no longer providing security hot fixes, and this will create a huge vulnerability to hackers [for those Distributed Control Systems (DCSs) running off XP].”
Those facilities running Windows XP will not lose the ability use their PCs, or run their plants, but without Microsoft patching vulnerabilities in the system, there will be a far larger risk of hacking.
These figures were intensified by Invensys EMEA senior cyber-security lead Jay Abdallah who said that energy companies are at the highest risk of attack, being targeted approximately 10,000 times globally per month by hackers.
However, it is as yet unclear what damage the end of Windows XP support will actually inflict on the process industries, and those still running the system globally.
In its cover feature this May, Process Engineering will discuss what the end of Windows XP support will mean for those continuing to run the OS, and how it might affect the day-to-day running of chemicals plants, nuclear facilities and manufacturing firms across the country.
Guarding against attack, as the government has displayed in its deal with Microsoft, is vital for the continued safety of thousands of systems whose defences will be, as of today, significantly weakened.
Microsoft has warned users that if they continue to use Windows XP they will be susceptible to an attack. It is now up to the appropriate people to put the correct systems in place to ensure an operational “happily ever after”.