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You have likely heard that Microsoft officially ended Windows XP support as of April 8, 2014.

What does this mean?

There will be no more Windows XP operating system patches   Microsoft will no longer be releasing security or stability updates for the Windows XP operating system or most Microsoft programs running under Windows XP.

Why does this matter?   Flaws in Windows XP could allow a malicious program to make unwanted changes to your computer.   Since newly discovered flaws will no longer be fixed by Microsoft, hackers may have more potential methods of exploiting the operating system.

Why doesn't this actually matter so much?   For a flaw in an operating system to be exploited, a malicous program must have access to the system.   In the old days, computers connected directly to the internet and malicious remote computers could attempt to connect to your PC at any time.   Most people now have a router/firewall which blocks outside communication with your PC unless your PC initiates the connection.  

So how do viruses and malware get on computers?   The weak link is not necessarily the operating system, but the user and programs which connect to the internet.   If a program can be exploited or a user tricked into allowing malware full accesss to the operating system... then the system can be compromised.   This applies to ALL operating systems.

And how do I avoid that?
For a start :
  • Turn off or uninstall software and services which you don't use and keep the software you do use up to date.   Specifically, remove any software which connects to the internet or runs in your browser (Java, Adobe Flash) if it is not needed.

  • Consider no longer using Microsoft software (Internet Explorer, Microsoft Office) under Windows XP.   Most third party software such as Google Chrome and LibreOffice will continue to receive security updates from its maker.

  • In XP Control Panel -> User Accounts: Create a new administrator account, then change your user account type to "limited" user.   This means you will need to login to the admin account to make changes to the system, but lower privileges in daily use makes it difficult for malware to take control of the system.

  • Find a 3rd Party antivirus/antimalware program (BitDefender, Avast, Comodo, Eset).   Microsoft 'Security Essentials' and 'Windows Defender' will continue to be updated under XP until May of 2015, but after that they may become useless.

Click here for some more security tips