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“Security software won’t be enough to protect XP”

Microsoft announced earlier this week that the company is ending XP support in the security program Microsoft Security Essentials. Support will end at the same time as support for Windows XP will end on April 8.

This means that users of Windows XP will no longer receive any security updates from Microsoft, either for the operating system or Microsoft Security Essentials.

Updated: Microsoft now has backed off on the issue and states that the company will continue to offer XP support for Security Essentials until July 14, 2015. However, Windows XP will be retired on April 8 of this year.

However, several of the major security software vendors state that they will continue to support Windows XP after the operating system is retired. Despite this, security expert Andreas Marx at the independent security company Av-Test does not believe it is enough.

– Security software cannot fix underlying security holes. There is nothing a security program can do if the operating system itself has vulnerabilities that can be used to spread malware, says Andreas Marx.

He urges users of Windows XP to upgrade to a more modern operating system such as Windows 7, Windows 8, Apple’s OS X or Linux that still offers support.

However, there are some steps users of XP can take to better protect themselves, even if it doesn’t offer as good security as a more modern operating system. He believes the security programs will sooner or later lose the fight against malware.

– Security products will ultimately lose to malware. XP will be open like a sieve, but there are certain measures you can take, says Andreas Marx.

The measures he recommends are the following:

  • Use a modern browser that still works on XP, such as Google Chrome, Firefox or Opera.
  • Install an updated security program that supports XP.

The security programs that promised continued support for XP are:

  • Kaspersky (until 2018)
  • Bitdefender (until 2016)
  • Avira (until 2015)
  • Trend Micro (until 2017)
  • Symantec (no date set yet)

The dates apply to the consumer versions of the respective security software.

However, Andreas Marx warns users against relying too much on the security programs.

– They will release updates to detect malware, but they probably won’t update the programs themselves or the underlying technology. Signatures are only one part of a fully-fledged security solution, says Andreas Marx.

According to the measurement company Net Applications, 29 percent of all Windows computers still run on XP. Even if it is a low, roughly 25 percent of all Windows computers will be running XP after April if the reduction occurs at the same rate as until now. This corresponds to several hundred million PCs worldwide.

Andreas Marx believes that the large base of XP installations may pose a threat to newer versions of Windows as well.

– Vulnerabilities in Windows XP pose a threat to the entire ecosystem of Windows installations. By attacking XP computers on a network, attackers can spread to other computers. It will be a dangerous situation, says Andreas Marx.


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