The day has finally come when Microsoft hangs up its hat for the last time in regards to Windows XP. This operating system has been one of the best operating systems out there and many folks are still using it and will continue to use it for another year or two or in some cases even longer. While it is true that many people will upgrade during the coming weeks, many will still continue to use the OS.
This is due in part because some folks are in the middle meaning that their computer is working great but it is slightly too old to be able to run a more modern OS like Windows 7 efficiently. I myself own a couple of XP machines that are custom built and work great but they will not accept Windows 7.
It has long been said by many that after April 8, XP machines were going to be bombarded with Malware and exploits. The truth is that if you follow safe browsing, your risk will probably be only slightly higher then before the demise of XP. In fact as people fall off the XP wagon more and more, it will not be as worthwhile for the hackers to even try to hack XP as the number of people using it will not make it worth their while.
It has long been a long known fact that the main reason Mac machines were not a Malware target was because they were in the minority. There simply were not enough machines around to make it worthwhile to target. Hackers are always going to go where the payload is the highest. I suspect that Windows 7 will become a much bigger target for Malware then Windows 8 and potentially even more then XP simply because it has such a large amount of users. Much of the same Malware that can infect XP can also infect a Windows 7 machine as well.
You might be now wondering if you are going to continue using Windows XP what should you do? Well as I mentioned before, Windows XP will not break. It will not stop working and everything will be the same on April 9 as it was on April 8. There are some steps you should take to help make your system a bit harder, however. Most of the steps are simply common sense changes that you actually should be doing with any operating system you are using.
The first thing you need to do is to go the Microsoft Update and get any last updates that are being published. If you using Microsoft Security Essentials, skip this update as it only brings up a warning that XP is not supported anymore. In reality, Security Essentials will have Malware updates through July of 2015 unless Microsoft decides to make any changes to that date. There are many virus venders that will continue to support XP so you could get a good free program from Avast if you should decide to.
The second thing you need to do is to uninstall JAVA. It is seldom used by anybody anymore and you probably will not even miss it. To do this, go to add and remove programs and look for JAVA and uninstall it.
Thirdly, you need to add Malwarebytes to your computer. Not just the free version but also the paid version. It is a very inexpensive 24.99 a year and it is well worth it. This second line of defense will actually stop more exploits then your main anti-virus program. Installing this program is a MUST if you are going to keep using XP.
Fourthly you need to add Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit to your machine. This small and free application uses almost no resources and does not require updates. The program can spot and immediately stop most zero day exploits before they ever get on your machine. You will not even notice it is running unless it actually stops a threat. The app has a handy option to start and stop protection in case you need extra horsepower for doing some intense gaming or other task. This program is also a must if you are going to keep XP.
The last thing you need to do is mostly common sense things you should be doing no matter what computer you are on. Always practice safe surfing and try to always stay on mainstream sites. If you follow this rule, you are likely never to get a virus infection on your computer. If you download free games or other free programs, always be aware of junk being downloaded along with the real program. Often times Conduit will come bundled with your download. While not dangerous in itself, the links it tries to take you to could take you to a compromised website.
In addition to websites, e-mails are a favorite way for Malware writers to share their wares. Be extremely careful when clicking on links embedded in e-mail messages as they could take you a Malware infected website. In addition, do not open attachments unless you really need whatever it is that is being sent and you are sure who sent it. This is the number one way for a computer to become infected and yet it is the most easily prevented. It is rare to get an infection from just opening e-mail but it is likely to happen from an attachment.
There is yet one more step that can give your computer an extra edge on the Malware writers. Change your computer to Open DNS. The Open DNS numbers are 126.96.36.199 for primary and 188.8.131.52 for the secondary. These numbers can either be put into your router or individually on each computer. Simply go to Control Panel and click on Network Connections. Right click on your connection and choose Properties in the dialog. Highlight Internet Protocol in the connection box and click Properties. Where is says to obtain DNS automatically, change it to Use The Following DNS server addresses. Add the numbers mentioned above into the appropriate boxes and hit OK and OK again. You will now be surfing more securely. You can also create a free account at Open DNS where you can block specific websites or website categories.
If you follow the above rules, you should be able to enjoy your Windows XP installation for a bit longer and suffer no consequences. Although never mentioned, if a major exploit emerged that was a significant enough of a threat, Microsoft will likely issue an emergency patch if needed. They will never tell you this so it is simply a matter of time to see if this might transpire. Happy XP surfing everybody!
Article By , Joe Z and Ross Deprey