The Demise of Windows XP Draws Nigh

Last October, gtnews published a piece that described the so-called sun-setting of the Windows XP operating system. This follow-up piece outlines the main implications and risks of Microsoft’s withdrawal of support for this still highly popular technology.

As Microsoft has confirmed that XP support will cease on 8 April, rightly-concerned treasury users of XP may appreciate timely advice on what courses of action are available. Additionally, the use of software as a service (SaaS) and central management of operating systems can handle the technical issues of operating system migration and help to eliminate the main risks and costs of this demanding exercise.

Microsoft’s announcement explicitly states that XP security updates will be discontinued. The company points out that it ‘does not mean that your PC will be secure’ – even if a given machine is presently protected by Microsoft Security Essentials. Microsoft suggests that users should upgrade to Windows 8.1.; this may require acquiring new PCs, as many older models cannot handle 8.1. Microsoft is very clearly urging its XP clients to act now. Those who do not act are faced with using a deteriorating platform for their business operations, with the level of operational risk rapidly ratcheting up.

London dailyThe Independent, in a piece dramatically headlined ‘Farewell Windows XP: the zombie operating system that came to haunt Microsoft’, asserts that Windows XP is still installed on a third of all PCs – presumably globally. That being the case, there must be many treasurers and financial professionals who will be exposed to accelerating levels of operational risk as the sun sets on XP in two weeks’ time.

A trio of risk

The primary risk is, of course, in security as the ingenuity of the criminal hacking community will surely swiftly focus on finding new ways of penetrating XP’s defences, which are about to become static. Additionally, as support is withdrawn, XP users will become increasingly vulnerable to system failures, unless they have access to expensive resources which can effectively analyse and patch operating systems. Topping it off, they will be unable to use new releases of treasury and accounting software applications that do not support XP – probably in the near future.

Treasurers will not appreciate having to cope with the demands of migrating to a new operating system – and perhaps also of obtaining new equipment – but XP users simply cannot responsibly choose not to act to mitigate these swiftly escalating risks. The risks of running financial technology in an unsupported environment are clearly unacceptable. At least the software management alternatives available today can enable users to avoid, or at least minimise this type of issue in the future. Treasuries with XP dependency should start the necessary conversations with their IT support services as a matter of urgency.

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