Win XP usage down but not out as support cutoff deadline looms

Flee! Flee from XP, or from WAN sectors at least! - so say industry advisors

The Four Horsemen Apocalypse ride up the grassy mound that adorns the WinXP desktop

Windows XP usage on the web is decreasing as the venerable operating system edges ever closer towards its "end of life" from Microsoft support next week.

Data from cloud security firm's Qualys QualysGuard shows that the percentage of XP on machines decreased from 35 per cent as of January 2013 to 14 per cent in February 2014. Qualys CTO Wolfgang Kandek predicts that the Win XP install base will decrease yet further to reach 10 per cent by the end of April 2014.

QualysGuard data reveals different prevalence in Win XP use across different industries.

For example, the transportation industry specifically has witnessed decreased XP usage, from 55 per cent in January 2013 to 14 per cent in February 2014, while Win XP usage in the healthcare industry has remained consistently low.

"Both of these industry sectors had significant challenges to overcome, especially in regards to specialised (non-IT managed) equipment that is connected to their networks and that frequently cannot simply be updated," Kandek explains in a blog post. "Many industrial control systems and medical devices, configurations that typically have much longer useful lifespans (>10 years) than pure computer equipment (<4 years), have Windows XP systems as vital components in their setups."

More than 70 per cent of Microsoft’s security bulletins last year affected XP. Qualys doesn't expect underlying susceptibility to hacking attacks for Windows XP to change. The crucial difference is, of course that Windows XP security patches will dry up for good after next Tuesday (April 8) - unless organisations negotiate extended support deals, as the British government has recently done.

"XP will be affected by a large percentage of the problems exposed in May, June and July, but there will be no remedy (except for companies that pay for extended support - an option that is at least US$ 100,000/year)," Kandek writes. The best solution is to migrate away from this outdated (designed in the '90s) operating system to a newer version, with the best candidates being Windows 7 and Windows 8," he adds.

Qualys suggests moving XP machines onto network segments that do not have direct internet access and other measures as workarounds to improve security of machines running the soon-to-be-obsolete operating system.

Other IT firms also report a decline in usage of windows XP of late, albeit a less dramatic drop than the stats from Qualys would suggest.

For example, Fiberlink reckons 44 per cent of laptops and computers are still running Windows XP, compared to around 50 per cent a few months ago. The figures are based on data from more than one million laptops and desktops across the world managed by the IBM-owned business. ®

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