Windows XP: How to Secure the Dead OS

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The day has finally arrived. Microsoft has been warning consumers for one year now that support for Windows XP will be ending, and at midnight EDT tonight the operating system will officially be dead to Microsoft.

What does this mean for consumers who are still running the popular OS? Not much at first. Updates to the platform will cease, and programs will continue running on the software. This does, however, introduce the possibility that newly found vulnerabilities in XP will be found and never patched. Though Microsoft will continue to update anti-virus signatures for the platform, many consumers may be putting their data at risk by continuing to use XP.

This is an especially pressing issue for businesses that do their computing through Windows XP, of which there are thousands. Market research firm Gartner today released an estimate showing that one-third of businesses have more than 10% of their computers still running the outdated software. For those stubborn few who will soldier on using XP, Gartner also released a few tips for how the platform can be secured in a post-support environment.

The most foolproof way to keep a Windows XP machine safe after today will be to keep it entirely offline. With no connection to a network or the internet XP machines should be safe from all outside intrusions.

If the machine must be online then there are still options for security. Gartner suggests revoking administrative rights for users on XP machines and removing email and web browsing software from the machines. These policies can be used in conjunction with an application control solution and using a network or host-based IPS.

If all this seems much too harsh, then upgrading to a newer version of Windows is always an option. Though Windows 8 may not run on many older machines, a correctly configured Windows 7 install will almost perfectly replicate the Windows XP experience and has a built-in compatibility mode specifically designed to run Windows XP business software.

Image via Microsoft

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