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Symantec recommends WinXP customers upgrade their OS

After April 8, Microsoft will no longer release updates designed to fix bugs that cybercriminals use to gain access to the operating system (OS). Any newly discovered vulnerabilities in the operating system will effectively become an open invitation to an attacker to gain control of a computer running Windows XP. Symantec strongly recommends that Windows XP customers upgrade to a current OS as soon as possible, but will continue to support Windows XP SP3 systems for the foreseeable future.

SavvyMediaGal recently posted a Norton Protection Blog entry titled, “How will the end of Microsoft XP impact you?” This is a great post describing Symantec’s perspective that while we will continue to protect XP systems for the foreseeable future, “...even the best security products and Microsoft's own Malicious Software Removal Tool can’t fully protect an outdated operating system.”

In this post, I want to follow up with some additional thoughts and related information to help you decide how to handle Microsoft’s announcement that Windows XP will reach “End of Support” on April 8, 2014.

What does “End of Support” even mean for users on a Windows XP operating system? In order to answer this question we need to start with Microsoft’s official announcement in its own description of “End of Support.” In this statement, Microsoft explains:

“Windows XP will no longer receive software updates from Windows Update. These include security updates that can help protect your PC from harmful viruses, spyware, and other malicious software, which can steal your personal information. Windows Update also installs the latest software updates to improve the reliability of Windows—new drivers for your hardware and more.”

The updates Microsoft describes are designed to fix bugs that cybercriminals can use to gain access to the operating system. Such bugs are known as vulnerabilities and they allow an attacker to inject code into a user’s machine to take over its operation.  Code injected in such a manner is known as an exploit.  

Historically, Microsoft has released monthly bug fixes for discovered vulnerabilities (on Patch Tuesday). Once support for Windows XP ends, Microsoft will no longer release any more bug fixes. And this is where the problem lies. We all hope the most serious bugs in Windows XP have already been discovered, especially those that make the software vulnerable to attack. However, as with any complex software system (including Windows XP), the likelihood that new bugs are no longer discovered is very remote.

As a result after April 8, any newly discovered vulnerabilities in the operating system will effectively become an open invitation to an attacker to gain control of a computer running Windows XP.

 

You might be asking, “Can’t my security software protect me from exploits taking advantage of new vulnerabilities in Windows XP?” While many security products can help to detect exploits and block attacks from taking place, the best defense is patching the vulnerability. This closes off the hole that allows the remote code execution and prevents new exploits.

Because of this, Symantec strongly recommends that Windows XP customers upgrade to a supported OS as soon as possible.

We realize some Windows XP users may not be able to upgrade before Microsoft’s deadline, and as a result, Symantec's Norton-branded products will continue to support Windows XP systems for the foreseeable future. Current supported versions include:

  • Norton Antivirus (NAV 21.x)
  • Norton Internet Security (NIS 21.x)
  • Norton (N360 21.x)
  • Versions of the above products included in multi-OS products such as Norton One and Norton 360 Multi-Device.  

For customers using older versions of Norton-branded products, Symantec’s policy is as follows: We will provide virus definition updates for three years after release of each major product version. Customers still receiving virus definition updates for earlier versions of their product will continue to receive definition sets that are compatible across all Windows platforms supported by their product. However, customers requiring support for an earlier version of their product may be required to update to the latest version of the product during the support process.

It is important to note that all customers with a currently active subscription for the products listed above are allowed to upgrade to the latest version at no additional cost. Visit the Norton Update Center to get the latest version.

Depending on security demands and development, future versions of Norton-branded security products may drop support for retired operating systems. As always, we will provide explicit system requirements in the documentation for every product update we release.

As more substantial information on Symantec's support for Norton-branded security products on Windows XP develops, this article will be updated accordingly.


F.A.Q.

Q. Where can I find out more about Microsoft’s End of Support announcement for Windows XP?

A. http://windows.microsoft.com/eos

Q. Will Windows XP become less secure after Microsoft ends support on April 8, 2014?

A. Microsoft itself has stated, “If you continue to use Windows XP after support ends, your computer will still work but it might become more vulnerable to security risks and viruses.” The reason for this is that after April 8, Microsoft will no longer be providing technical assistance for users of Windows XP and will stop producing operating system updates designed to close vulnerabilities found in the operating system. For more information see: http://windows.microsoft.com/eos

Q. Does Symantec recommend updating to another operating system?

A. Symantec strongly recommends that Windows XP customers upgrade to a more modern and supported OS as soon as possible.

Q. Does Symantec have recommendations for users who will continue to use Windows XP?

A. For users choosing to continue to use Windows XP after April 8, we recommend a combination of best practices that includes the following:

  • Ensure that your Windows XP system is patched with the latest updates from Microsoft
  • Migrate to applications that are supported with security updates and patches on Windows XP
  • Ensure that your security software is up-to-date and actively supported on Windows XP by your security vendor

Q. If I am running the latest version of Norton Antivirus, Norton Internet Security or Norton 360, will I still receive product updates and virus definitions if I am running these products on Windows XP?

A. At the time of this F.A.Q. the latest major versions of these products are version 21.0. At this time, Symantec is supporting these products with product updates and virus definitions for all supported versions of Microsoft Windows (including Windows XP SP2).

Q. If I am running an older version of Norton Antivirus, Norton Internet Security or Norton 360, will I still receive product updates and virus definitions on Windows XP?

A. Versions of software older than 21.0 will be supported based upon the following guidelines: We will provide virus definition updates for three years after release of each major product version. Customers still receiving virus definition updates for earlier versions of their product will continue to receive definition sets that are compatible across all Windows platforms supported by their product. However, customers requiring support for an earlier version of their product may be required to update to the latest version of the product during the support process. Visit the Norton Update Center to get the latest version.

Q. Will Symantec support Windows XP in its next major release of Norton-branded security products?

A. Our goal is to provide the best protection possible on the broadest set of operating systems used by our customers. Depending on security demands and development, future versions of Norton-branded security products may drop support for retired operating systems. As always, we will provide explicit system requirements in the documentation for every product update we release.