Jamie DavisJamie Davis, VP, Education, Product Management, and Quality Control

Remember 2002?  In some ways it seems like a long time ago and in some ways it doesn’t.

Back in 2000, I wasn’t even a gleam in Safe Systems‘ eye. Nickleback and Nelly topped the music charts; Friends, E.R., The West Wing, and Will & Grace were the top TV shows;  My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Minority Report, Die Another Day (the really bad Bond film that Pierce Brosnan did), and Men in Black II topped the box office; and Windows rolled out XP. Well, I guess technically they rolled it out New Year’s Eve 2001 but I’m guessing very few businesses were staying up late that night to have a computer running XP. 

Safe Systems clients alone currently have more than 10,000 devices running Windows XP. That’s 10,000 devices that will be considered vulnerabilities and issues for financial institutions just 12 months from now.

During Windows XP’s infancy in the early 2000s, it was a fairly easy upgrade. A lot of businesses had been running Windows 2000 for a couple of years, and the change was almost unnoticeable. For the poor consumers who had suffered through a year-plus of Windows Millennium (the really bad Windows version Bill Gates did), XP was a much-needed and appreciated upgrade. Windows XP is the longest-running operating system Microsoft’s created. It has been the most successful Windows version so far. Windows XP has been purchased, sold, installed, and used more than any operating system in history. My grandparents even know and feel comfortable with Windows XP. OK, comfortable is a strong word and they don’t even know it’s called Windows XP, but they know how to open email on Windows XP as long as no one moves the icon.

But the fact is Windows XP is an 11-year-old operating system that will effectively be forgotten by Microsoft in about a year — the software giant announced it will end its extended support for Windows XP on April 8, 2014. The countdown is on.

What does “unsupported” mean in Microsoft terms?  Here’s how they define it: An unsupported version of Windows no longer receives software updates from Windows Update. These include security updates that can help protect your PC from harmful viruses, spyware, and other malicious software, all of which can steal your personal information. On top of that, Windows Update installs the latest software updates to improve the reliability of Windows—new drivers for your hardware and more. No software updates should be of more concern for anyone from a performance and security perspective. Especially for financial institutions due to the expectations set forth by compliance governing documents. The FFIEC IT Handbook for Information Security addresses the need for updating software several times:

  • Update operating system with security patches and using appropriate change control mechanisms – Operating System Access
  • Host hardening, including patch application and security-minded configurations of the operating system (OS) – Malicious Code Prevention
  • Apply the patch to production systems-Systems Development, acquisition, and maintenance – Specifically entire section on Patch Management

The good news is Windows 7 has been around for several years now. At this point, most software vendors have updated their software to be compatible with Windows 7.  For an experienced Windows XP user, it’s not that hard to get used to using Windows 7. Most current Windows XP users (my grandparents excluded) will be able to adjust to Windows 7 nuances rather quickly.

So if you haven’t already, it’s probably time for you and your institution to design a plan to replace your Windows XP machines. With just a year left and another budget cycle before these machines have to be replaced, there is plenty of time to put a plan together. If you plan to use outside help with replacing these, I would recommend starting those conversations now as there are going to be a lot of people trying to replace workstations over the next year.

Friends moved on. Pierce Brosnan stepped aside to make room for Daniel Craig. Sadly, The West Wing reached its term limit. And Taylor Swift (who was 13 in 2002) now tops the music charts, while Nelly and Nickelback tour the senior circuit.

It’s 2013 now. High time to define a plan that’ll help Windows XP go the way of Will & Grace. Gone but not forgotten.

Keeping XP around much longer is like trying to watch E.R. without Noah Wyle – it will work, but for how long?

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