Today is April 8th, 2014 – otherwise known as the official worldwide phaseout of Microsoft Windows XP’s operating system and support service. If you are operating on Windows 8, 7, or Vista, then move along — nothing to see here. However, if your computer ranks among the 70% of computers in China that are currently using Windows XP, well, congratulations: You officially have a topic to bitch about over lunch for the rest of the week.
So what does this mean, exactly? According to CRI, it means that “Microsoft will not update any patches for any system vulnerabilities detected within Windows XP. In this case, XP users might be open to new cyber-security risks.” Any spyware or viruses that are circling overhead like the proverbial vultures they are could potentially swoop down and really screw with your shit. As Kotaku also points out, this phaseout not only “cause problems with security, but it also complicates anti-piracy efforts in the People’s Republic.”
Adding to this note, ComputerWorld points out that “unsupported Windows XP machines in China could pose a threat to the Internet in general if bot-herders round up significant numbers of them to use as launch pads for malicious exploits.” Despite Microsoft’s warnings of XP’s looming phaseout, most Chinese users chose to not upgrade their OS or even apply security patches: This, ComputerWorld guesses, might be due to financial reasons or the fact that, as former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer once pointed out, 90% of Microsoft software used in China (including XP) was pirated and therefore has no documentation.
James Forshaw, a vulnerability researcher for Context Information Security, told ComputerWorld how Microsoft should provide incentives such as financial support to get Chinese users to ‘migrate’ to a different OS: “If we’re talking tens of millions of machines that’s a significant pool to do DoS [Denial-of-Service] or other malicious attacks…It might be in everyone’s best interest to get China or other countries to help them to migrate.”
Fear-mongering aside, this issue is more about potential frustrations for individual users than a potential plot pitch for the sequel to Swordfish. CRI helps break it down for you here:
“The official “retiring” of Windows XP does not mean that this classic operating system cannot run on personal computers. Microsoft said that they will not provide patching services for Windows XP any more starting April 8, 2014. This means that XP can still normally run on computers, Microsoft will merely stop providing patches for the operating system’s vulnerability.
However, computers still running Windows XP after Tuesday may encounter some hidden dangers, including viruses, Trojans or attacks by hackers, if system vulnerabilities are not fixed on time.”
By Alex Stevens