Microsoft will cease all updates and support for its Windows XP operating system on April 8, potentially leaving nearly 30 percent of all internet-connected PCs
open to cyber attack, some experts say.
According to CNN
, the risks of staying on XP instead of upgrading to Windows 7 or 8 will compound with time.
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"It's like expired milk. If you drink it one day after it expires, you're OK. But after a month, the risk is exponentially greater," said Sergio Galindo, general manager of GFI Software, which provides IT support to mid-sized businesses.
Anti-virus software vendor Avast echoed that sentiment in a recent blog post
"The vulnerable OS will be an easy target for hackers and be seen as a gateway to infect other non-XP operating systems," the blog post said.
Currently, XP users are 6 times more likely to be infected with a virus than Windows 7 users, and the risks will only get greater over time, Avast said.
Microsoft has been warning users about the looming deadline for about a year, as it takes on the challenge of moving a significant number of its billion customers to a more secure version. The company is now employing carrot, in addition to stick, to get users to update. For a limited time, the company is offering $100 off a range of new computers running Windows 8 through the Microsoft Store.
Many technology news outlets are recommending that anyone who cannot switch stop using Internet Explorer 8 — the most recent version that is still supported by XP. Internet Explorer 8 is particularly vulnerable to attack. Experts recommend using Firefox or Google Chrome, which will be supported by XP through April 2015.
Anti-virus protection is also highly recommended for XP users. However, Microsoft has warned
the public about this as well.
"Our research shows that the effectiveness of anti-malware solutions on out-of-support operating systems is limited. Running a well-protected solution starts with using modern software and hardware designed to help protect against today’s threat landscape," the company said.
As hackers and other fraudsters mark their calendars for open season, users should back up all their photos and important documents to an external hard drive, one that remains disconnected from the computer, or a cloud drive like Dropbox, Google Drive, Amazon Cloud Drive.
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