Microsoft extends anti-malware for XP; Here’s why you still need to upgrade

microsoftMicrosoft announced on January 15th that it will extend updates to its anti-malware for Windows XP for another year. But as our security experts explain, the underlying facts of Microsoft’s planned retirement of XP in April have not changed, and you should still upgrade as soon as possible.

Once Microsoft officially ends support for XP on Patch Tuesday in April (the last security update for XP), there will be no new security updates, non-security fixes, assisted support options, or online technical content updates from Microsoft.

That means that XP users, even those with anti-malware protection from Microsoft or security vendors, will face significantly higher security risks after the end of support. As Microsoft said in its announcement, “Our research shows that the effectiveness of anti-malware solutions on out-of-support operating systems is limited.”

To ease the burden of upgrading, Sophos will officially support Windows XP Service Packs 2 and 3 until at least September 30, 2015; and Windows Server 2003 until at least January 31, 2017. See our support knowledgebase for a complete platform support list.

Upgrading to newer Windows operating systems is causing plenty of problems for specialized systems, including for point-of-sale (POS) registers, medical devices, and even ATMs.

For those using “embedded” versions of XP on specialized equipment, we recommend isolating these machines and restricting access to non-essential functions using application control available in next-gen firewalls.

In most cases, however, it’s time to upgrade. As Naked Security expert Paul Ducklin writes, Microsoft’s extended anti-malware support doesn’t really change much. “Windows XP will still officially fall off the edge of the world in April 2014 when Microsoft ends support,” Paul writes.

For more advice from our experts, listen to our informative Sophos Techknow podcast on “The End of XP.”