Both Microsoft Windows XP and Microsoft Office 2003 have been around for 10+ years now, which is a very long time in I.T. terms. However Microsoft have announced that they are finally stopping support for these products on April 8th 2014. So what does that mean for all the end users out there? It means Microsoft will no longer be issuing updates, patches or security fixes for Office 2003 or for the Windows XP system. So from a practical sense when hackers find a security loophole that will remain and Microsoft won't fix it.
It doesn't mean your Windows XP or Office programs are going to break automatically. Chances are very good everything will continue to operate fine for a while – the issue will arise when you might need a new printer, support for a new piece of equipment or hit a snag wanting to use the latest Flash player or other support software.
Despite newer versions of Office being released subsequently, Office 2003 was adequate enough for a lot of people, and it is still currently functional. However, there is a serious issue looming; the security problems. Over the last 12 months there have been 10 security updates for Microsoft Office 2003. Five of them are rated critical by Microsoft.
Security analyst Roy Illsley says "Antivirus will help but the real issue is with an unsupported OS is once someone spots a flaw, that's a weakness you're not going to have fixed unless you pay Microsoft a shed-load of money, and nobody's going to do that."
In the new Security Blog post, Tim Rains, Microsoft's Director of Trustworthy Computing threw in some new cautions about ignoring the XP support cut-off date: "But after April 8, 2014, organizations that continue to run Windows XP won't have this advantage over attackers any longer. The very first month that Microsoft releases security updates for supported versions of Windows, attackers will reverse engineer those updates, find the vulnerabilities and test Windows XP to see if it shares those vulnerabilities. If it does, attackers will attempt to develop exploit code that can take advantage of those vulnerabilities on Windows XP."
You don't need to run out and replace your equipment but you should be mindful of this issue and plan accordingly. Best practice is to always use operating systems that are currently being supported unless there is a compelling reason not to.
The bottom line is that there will be plenty of action on the Windows XP and Office 2003 vulnerability front. Don't be surprised if many new bugs appear after D-day when Microsoft have dropped their support, given their exposure in the virus & malware marketplace will be much greater.
So what are you to do before next April when Windows XP and Office 2003 move into the retirement home? Our advice would be…
For more dates of end of life products see Microsofts End of life Factsheet.
So if you're in need of some help with planning some upgrades, or even just some free friendly advice, get in touch with us, 6-370 8093.