Sticking with Windows XP might have Troubling Side Effects for Businesses

April 23, 2013

Those who continue procrastinating with regard to Windows 8 migration may soon find themselves with some unforeseen financial difficulties on their hands. According to TechRepublic, sticking with an outdated operating system such as Windows XP is a calculated risk – it's certainly cheaper and easier, but the downside is that security breaches and crashing applications may be in those users' futures.

Microsoft has already announced a deadline of April 8, 2014 for providing support to XP users, in the hopes that clients, especially large corporations, will make an effort to transition over to Windows 8 before that date. But survey data recently compiled by software consulting firm Camwood indicates otherwise – about 20 percent of companies currently using XP plan to stick with the operating system past 2014, the firm found.

Some companies have mistakenly come to believe that because of Windows XP's longevity and ubiquity in the American workplace, the operating system is secure long-term, and all major vulnerabilities have already been dealt with. But Rik Ferguson, global vice president of security research at Trend Micro, told TechRepublic that the opposite is true. New vulnerabilities are always being discovered, and users will be far less secure once they're without the tech support resources currently at their disposal.

"It's a racing certainty that significant new vulnerabilities with XP will be uncovered in the future, if anyone wants to devote their time to it," Ferguson said. "You'd be a fool to say every possible vulnerability has already been discovered and either mitigated or patched. It should theoretically get progressively more difficult to uncover bugs in a system as widespread as XP. All that field-testing, all that field QA, are going to be far more extensive than anything you could have hoped to achieve in a QA lab pre-release."

Despite the looming security risks, Windows XP remains the second most popular operating system in the world, according to ZDNet. Windows 7 checked in at the No. 1 spot at the end of March, controlling 44.73 percent of the market, and Windows XP was right behind at 38.73 percent. Despite having six months to drum up support, Microsoft has still done little to fuel sales of Windows 8, which still represents just 3.17 percent of the OS market.

If more attention is paid to the security risks in the near future, users may drift away from the outdated Windows XP and onto the new and improved Windows 8. But if the last few months are any indication, it might be a slow process.