The world hasn’t ended; cats and dogs still hate each other; there’ll be another series of the X-Factor (the apocalypse has its upside). You are thinking the Windows XP end of life was a bit of a Y2K scare. Perhaps it was and we can only hope.
But April 8th wasn’t the date you had to be worried about. May 13th is.
Patch Tuesday is the day every month that Microsoft releases patches for their software. Patch Tuesday is always the second Tuesday of each month. April 8th 2014 was a Patch Tuesday and May 13th is the next one. So on May 13th, Microsoft are likely to release security updates to their supported operating systems which describe and overcome vulnerabilities. Those lovely little script kiddies around the world will read the updates and assume the vulnerabilities might also apply to unsupported operating systems such as Windows XP. They will then attempt to exploit these because they know they will not be fixed.
Think about the recent Heartbleed vulnerability in OpenSSL. As soon as this was made public, untold numbers of malware writers rushed to take advantage of it before the affected servers were patched. Now imagine if those web servers were never patched. Welcome to the fun world of unsupported software.
The Microsoft Security Intelligence Report analyses threats, vulnerabilities and malware using data from Internet services and over 600 million computers worldwide. Volume 15 of the report included some intriguing graphs. Many people argue that Windows XP is more vulnerable because it has been around longer and is attacked to a greater extent. However, the diagram below (click to enlarge) shows the operating systems are attacked at a fairly even rate (right) and worryingly Windows XP is far more susceptible to attacks (left). This may be because anti-virus wasn’t included in the OS (until Windows Defender in Windows 7) or because people might be more lacklustre in patching old machines.
The graph below provides a historic take on why you should be concerned. The blue line shows the level of infections rose dramatically when Windows XP service pack 2 (SP2) went end of life and we can only assume the same behaviour will occur for Windows XP SP3 (the final service pack).
You can check the support lifecycle of all Microsoft software through their Support Lifecycle Search.