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Microsoft Operating Systems Security Windows Technology

End of Windows XP Support Era Signals Beginning of Security Nightmare 646

Posted by samzenpus
from the no-more-patches dept.
colinneagle writes "Microsoft's recent announcement that it will end support for the Windows XP operating system in two years signals the end of an era for the company, and potentially the beginning of a nightmare for everyone else. When Microsoft cuts the cord on XP in two years it will effectively leave millions of existing Windows-based computers vulnerable to continued and undeterred cyberattacks, many of which hold the potential to find their way into consumer, enterprise and even industrial systems running the latest software. Although most of the subsequent security issues appear to be at the consumer level, it may not be long until they find a way into corporate networks or industrial systems, says VMWare's Jason Miller. Even scarier, Qualsys's Amol Sarwate says many SCADA systems for industrial networks still run a modified version of XP, and are not in a position to upgrade. Because much of the software running on SCADA systems is not compatible with traditional Microsoft OS capabilities, an OS upgrade would entail much more work than it would for a home or corporate system."
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End of Windows XP Support Era Signals Beginning of Security Nightmare

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  • by ahotiK (2426590) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @02:41AM (#39654453)
    "When Microsoft cuts the chord on XP in two years it will effectively leave millions of existing Windows-based computers vulnerable to continued and undeterred cyberattacks" So what's the difference between now and when this will happen?
    • by ThePromenader (878501) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @03:09AM (#39654593) Homepage Journal

      Microsoft already cut the chord a decade ago - with their sh*tty Windows XP boot chime.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 12, 2012 @08:06AM (#39656029)

        Cutting the chord... what does this mean for C#?

      • by cpu6502 (1960974) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @11:24AM (#39658297)

        It's certainly better support than Apple. XP was released in 2001 so that would be equivalent to OS 9.2 in the Apple world. Do they still support it?

        Ha! A big fat no. They don't even support my OS, which is as recent as 10.5 (last powerpc variant). If anything Microsoft is acting better than Apple does and should receive some praise for supporting XP as long as they have. I've been using the same computer for 10+ years (and thus saving a lot of cash).

        • by mcvos (645701)

          How many major releases have there been since OS 9.2? How many have there been since XP? Especially considering Vista was a big failure.

          Apple and MS have very different release cycles. Comparing them is comparing apples and oranges. That said, I was under the impression MS had already abandoned XP quite some time ago.

          • by Score Whore (32328) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @01:29PM (#39660679)

            Rather than saying they have different release cycles you should be saying they have different release methodologies or software life cycles. Apple apparently supports two releases back (searches for "apple software life cycle" only result in forum posts asking the same question), while Microsoft has defined support periods that are generally quite long. Microsoft's approach is important for people who intend to incorporate Microsoft's products into their business processes. Apple's approach is (marginally) acceptable for consumer products.

            Apple releases new versions that don't have substantial backward compatibility guarantees about as often as Microsoft releases service packs that do make an emphasis on backward compatibility.

            As far as comparing between the two -- in my experience having two macs, a first gen apple tv, an ipod, a couple of iphones and an ipad and five windows boxes running XP, Vista and 7 -- windows service packs frequently deliver not only rolled up bug fixes, but new functionality similar to the kinds of new functionality that you'd find in Apple OS X releases.

            Fundamentally Microsoft does a much better job of supporting prior generation platforms than Apple does by far. Hell, Apple, as near as I can tell, obsoletes products just because.

          • by cpu6502 (1960974)

            Most of the so-called "releases" from Apple are just minor upgrades to the ongoing OS X project..... equivalent to Microsoft service packs. SO:

            Apple had 9 updates (9.2,10.0,.1,.2,.3,.4,.5,.6,.7)
            Microsoft also had 9 (XP-0, -1, -2, -3, Vista-0, -1, -2, Seven-0, -1).

            But Microsoft provides support across ~13 years (from XP-SP0 initial release to 2014) whereas apple only provides support for 1/3rd as long. Apple's philosophy forces people like me to buy new hardware to stay up-to-date (since 10.6, 10.7 won't r

  • Support? (Score:5, Funny)

    by arisvega (1414195) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @02:42AM (#39654461)

    When Microsoft cuts the chord on XP in two years it will effectively leave millions of existing Windows-based computers vulnerable to continued and undeterred cyberattacks

    I can't say I'm going to miss Microsoft XP support.

    I can't say I 've ever had Microsoft XP support, either-

    • Re:Support? (Score:5, Funny)

      by mug funky (910186) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @03:15AM (#39654627)

      maybe you should have paid for your copy?

      • Re:Support? (Score:5, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 12, 2012 @03:36AM (#39654757)

        >>maybe you should have paid for your copy?

        Oh I tried. Microsoft, however, would not sell me a copy. They only sell licenses.

        • by tehcyder (746570)

          >>maybe you should have paid for your copy?

          Oh I tried. Microsoft, however, would not sell me a copy. They only sell licenses.

          I thought that software isn't the same as a tangible physical object? So if you can't steal it, how can you own it?

    • by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @03:44AM (#39654781) Journal

      I can't say I 've ever had Microsoft XP support, either-

      I did, back in the days when XP SP1 was promulgated, but it was not one of Microsoft's prouder moments. The SP1 package downloaded, but would not install. Several attempts yielded the same result, and various help articles on the MS web site were consulted fruitlessly. So I duly filed a report on the MS web site, not expecting much to happen. Somewhat to my surprise, I got a phone call a couple of days later (must have been international, I'm in Finland, and the support person spoke English with an Indian accent). She talked me through what I had already tried, and it failed yet again. So then she told me to disable all firewalls, both in the PC and in the router, and try again. I suggested that would be unwise, since my router logs indicated several nasty packets (fake routing, port probes, etc.) per second were being blocked, and none appeared to be from Microsoft. Her response was that the only way for me to install SP1 was to disable all firewalls. In other words, connect with pants down and legs open to a stream of questionable health. Yeah, right.

      I paid attention to her advice, but did not follow it. Instead, I installed Warty Warthog, which seemed to work quite nicely (but had issues with wireless which meant wired connections only). A beta version of Breezy Badger followed, and it autodetected and supported almost everything on the laptop, including the wireless. XP was thrown away shortly thereafter, and the 8-year-old laptop today runs Xubuntu (10.04 LTS, soon upgrading to 12.04 LTS).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 12, 2012 @02:43AM (#39654465)

    About time. XP default sounds suck.

  • Alternative title? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EnempE (709151) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @02:46AM (#39654473)
    Nothing to worry about, yet...

    Companies have two years to upgrade from software that is more than ten years old or install a firewall on systems in industrial networks.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 12, 2012 @02:46AM (#39654475)

    Almost nobody ever runs Windows Update on those old SCADA machines anyway, I don't really think this is such a big deal.

    • by 1u3hr (530656) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @04:02AM (#39654873)
      I've been running several XP laptops for years without any upgrades. Just use a third party firewall, and never use IE or Outlook.When I set up for relatives, I added Avast free antivirus.No problems. Anyone corporate will just throw away an old PC. If it's something embedded, they'll have it behind layers of security. MS patches are reactive anyway, if you depended on them you'd have been fucked long ago.
      • by FlynnMP3 (33498)

        If it's something embedded, they'll have it behind layers of security.

        I take umbrage at this statement. It is never wise to assume anything when it comes to security. And if you've been following the articles related to SCADA systems and industrial security that have been popping up lately, it is obvious that the industrial controls market somehow thinks that *their* systems will never get a virus anyway. With the latest crop of SCADA software touting Cloud Storage/Control and Mobile Access as the latest and greatest _must have_ features, security will be more of a concern

  • Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Aphrika (756248) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @02:49AM (#39654481)
    ...that's two years to do something about it. What does everyone expect; Microsoft to support it forever?

    14 years of support seems pretty generous - I mean how many versions of OS do Apple currently support? Certainly not all the way back to OS X 10.0. I'm also sure that a lot of those embedded and industrial systems will be updated before then. That's more the job of the manufacturers than Microsoft.
    • Re:Well... (Score:5, Informative)

      by fearlezz (594718) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @04:45AM (#39655073) Homepage

      I agree, the 14 years was pretty generous.
      When XP was originally released, I was running some SuSE 7.x version. The first 7.x version was released in september 2000. The last 7.x version went end-of-life in december 2003, meaning a support span of 3 years and 3 months. Fedora has something like a thirteen month support span, depending on the release date of version x+2. Only RHEL appears to be supported for 10 years.

      There is one big difference: all Linux distros release a new version every 1-2 years. The next windows release took 6 years, but the next windows release that was really usable in companies took a few years more.

    • Re:Well... (Score:5, Informative)

      by thegarbz (1787294) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @05:06AM (#39655189)

      I'm also sure that a lot of those embedded and industrial systems will be updated before then.

      I'm very sure a lot of those WON'T be upgraded. Those that do need to pass several barriers:

      1. Manufacturer needs to provide an updated system.
      2. The system needs to be able to be taken down for maintenance. I know some industrial plants have an 8 year maintenance shutdown cycle.
      3a. You need the motivation to upgrade. Security holes in an OS is not motivation, the vendor will have to EOL the entire system before most people will move.
      3b. If the entire system isn't EOL'ed the vendor will need to provide an OS / interface update for their existing system. Seeing a vendor provide a partial update like this is rarer than rockinghorse poo. Assuming they have the motivation and capability to do it, some systems need to pass certification as well which they often don't think is a justifiable expense.
      4. Speaking of justifiable expense an upgrade like this would involve stripping all I/O out of the old control system, replacing the system itself, recommissioning and loop checking, and then testing the software. Often the time constraints for such an activity is measured in days not weeks. It's a big and very labour intensive job, not to mention expenses will run in the hundreds of thousands. That's a LOT of money for maintaining the status quo.

      Basically I guarantee there'll be plenty of embedded and industrial systems running on Windows XP for many years to come. How do I know? Well currently there are plenty of embedded and industrial systems running on Windows NT4 as well. We have about 8 such systems at our plant. One of them at least gets upgraded "soon". Windows NT4 was EOLed in 2004, the PLC was EOL'ed in 2007, we received approval from the corporate bigwigs for the upgrade last year, and the next scheduled shutdown is 2017. Fun fact, we buy old PCs capable of running Windows NT4 from our employees and have about 10 of them in storage, just in case.

      Although it could be worse, one plant in my city runs a PLC from the same vendor as the one above which is a version older still. Their attached PCs run DOS.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      I mean how many versions of OS do Apple currently support? Certainly not all the way back to OS X 10.0.

      Piss on Apple. When Solaris 2.5.x was out you could still get support for SunOS 4.1.4. That's many versions into a major version upgrade. PC companies like Microsoft don't even know the meaning of support. (And now Sun's hosed since Oracle thinks it means only "earning opportunity")

  • No sympathy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardprice.gmail@com> on Thursday April 12, 2012 @02:49AM (#39654483)

    This deadline has been known about for the past five years - if you can't resolve upgrade issues in seven years, then you are the problem, not the maker of the software being EOLed.

    This isn't happening overnight, you had your chance to do something about it. You might not agree with the EOL, but that's beside the point.

    • Re:No sympathy (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gl4ss (559668) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @03:03AM (#39654563) Homepage Journal

      it's not like you received too much support from ms by default for running 3rd party scada sw anyways..

      those scada systems should not be directly connected to internet anyways though.

      however, doesn't ms still kinda receive the right to ship security patches/fixes? I bet they do. you never knew if stuff was going to be fixed before this and you'll never know after this. support just kinda meant that you could phone them up(oh and responsibility for defects doesn't stop just because you eol a product line, no matter what the eula says..).

    • Re:No sympathy (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Waccoon (1186667) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @03:06AM (#39654581)

      Reminds me of how long it took for peripheral manufacturers to write drivers for Vista, despite how long they had developer previews available.

      Hey, just another example besides good ol' IE6.

    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @03:54AM (#39654829)

      All Windows versions come with 10 years of guaranteed support. 5 years of primary support, where they get new features and service packs, 5 years of extended support, where they get bug and security fixes. MS is known to increase that, but never decrease. In the case of XP, they did extend support. XP is getting 14 years total of support.

      I have zero sympathy. You have to cut support for old versions at some point. Even if you are doing everything for free, it just gets infeasible to maintain old code all the time. Ubutnu only does 5 years on LTS releases. In MS's case, it is also because bills need to be paid. They don't charge yearly for maintenance or patches or anything, the cost of that is included in the purchase price. Well, that means that price has to be paid every once and awhile, and once per 10+ years isn't unreasonable.

      As you say this isn't happening overnight, nor is it a situation of MS suddenly reducing support life. This has been known for a long, long time. Any company that is sticking their head in the sand about it is bringing about their own problems and on their own heads be it, they can't blame MS at all.

      Look people, XP goes out of support in 2014. STFU and deal with it. You've 3 choices:

      1) Upgrade. Really, this is not hard. 7 Is an extremely good OS, I've been very pleased with it. It will be supported until January 14, 2020 at a minimum, unless MS chooses to extend it so you've at least 8 years before you need to upgrade again. Once a decade-ish isn't too often to upgrade.

      2) Isolate. You can just take the damn thing off the Internet if it is really a problem. We've done that at work with a few old Windows 98 systems. We are a university and so don't always have money for new toys. We get some old piece of equipment that is controlled by software that only runs in 98 or earlier. Fine, it just doesn't get on the net. Yes it is a bit inconvenient. Deal with it. The air gap works.

      3) Protect. If it really is an issue, you can lock down and protect the systems. Put them all on a private network that can only be accessed via a controller system that is bitchy about what is and is not allowed in and out. Then internally have each system run a locked down firewall and set of services. Disallow any web access, only access to internal systems. Lock everything down tight, with multiple levels of security, and even lacking patches you can likely keep it secure.

      This is nothing more than companies whining because they want to be lazy. They don't want to take the effort to upgrade to a new version of Windows, don't want to take the effort to increase security, and just think that MS should patch shit forever to support their laziness.

      No sympathy here.

      • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday April 12, 2012 @07:36AM (#39655837) Homepage Journal

        XP is getting 14 years total of support.

        Not if you're one of the many people who bought a netbook or "nettop" with XP on it in the last few years.

        This is nothing more than companies whining because they want to be lazy. They don't want to take the effort to upgrade to a new version of Windows, don't want to take the effort to increase security, and just think that MS should patch shit forever to support their laziness.

        Actually, they don't want to pay two hundred bucks to go to an operating system that doesn't run their software. Or at least, that's my situation. Windows XP runs stuff that doesn't run on Wine or on Windows 7.

        • by rsmith-mac (639075) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @07:40AM (#39655865)

          Not if you're one of the many people who bought a netbook or "nettop" with XP on it in the last few years.

          Not to sound unsympathetic, but you bought a disposable computer that was outdated the day it was manufactured. Netbooks were meant to be frequently replaced; making them underpowered and easy to break is how they got the costs so low in the first place.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      if you can't resolve upgrade issues in seven years, then you are the problem

      Windows 7 massively broke backwards compatibility, you insensitive clod! It doesn't run Civilization 2 or several other classic games I've got and paid for, even in XP mode which is pure canned crap compared to even the free vmware player.

      The truth is that Windows XP has been sold as recently as what, last year? That's a VERY short EOL for a recently-shipped operating system.

  • by Mitreya (579078) <mitreyaNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday April 12, 2012 @02:52AM (#39654511)

    When Microsoft cuts the chord on XP

    Cuts the cord?
    Or is this some sort of operation that will prevent XP from playing guitar?

    • by Mitreya (579078)

      When Microsoft cuts the chord on XP

      Oh, what do you know, TFA says "chord" too
      Ok, in that case someone should write summaries, instead of always lifting 2 paragraphs from TFA verbatim.

      And I've never seen heyday spelled as "hey-day". Just doesn't look right.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 12, 2012 @03:01AM (#39654547)

    Every time I read about the ending support, I wonder what happens to the so called XP mode in Windows 7. It's an installation of Virtual PC with a XP image ( http://www.microsoft.com/windows/virtual-pc/download.aspx ). Since Windows 7 is supported by MS, how can they leave those users alone?

  • by djsmiley (752149) <djsmiley2k@gmail.com> on Thursday April 12, 2012 @03:06AM (#39654569) Homepage Journal

    I'm all for bashing Microsoft but how can you say

    "When Microsoft cuts the chord on XP in two years it will effectively leave millions of existing Windows-based computers vulnerable to continued and undeterred cyberattacks, many of which hold the potential to find their way into consumer, enterprise and even industrial systems running the latest software"

    while talking about XP? Its over 10 years old. Microsoft have been trying to push people away for two versions of windows. While their upgrade cycle might be very clunky, I don't think the blame can fall fully on them for people who run software which is 10 years out of date, and now out of support.

    • by dbet (1607261) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @04:28AM (#39654983)
      It's not exactly correct to say it's 10 years old, as if that's the last time they sold it. People buying new computers just a couple of years ago were given XP as their system. This isn't an argument for more support, just a fact.
  • by Gadget_Guy (627405) * on Thursday April 12, 2012 @03:06AM (#39654587)

    This is no different from when Windows 2000 reached its end of life, or 98, or NT4. The life cycles of Microsoft products tend to be consistent and well known.

    Anyone using Windows on a SCADA system should not just rely on Microsoft's updates for security. Lock them down, limit Internet access to a minimum, don't use Administrator accounts, don't install any Adobe products, don't use the systems for general purpose web browsing and don't feed them after midnight. Most security holes require some active interaction to work.

    I still have a bunch of Win2000 systems in use and they chug along fine.

  • incompetent morons (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 12, 2012 @03:10AM (#39654603)
    Sooooo let me get this straight, There are industrial networks that still rely on XP for SCADA AND they are not protecting them with other security mechanisms AND they are connected to the internet. And the security nightmare here is somehow Microsoft's fault and not the incompetent morons running these unprotected systems?
  • by scsirob (246572) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @03:32AM (#39654723)

    Set aside for a moment that XP is pretty old. I bought a legal copy of it. It does not have an expiration date on it, I am entitled to run it as long as I wish. My license appears to allow me to replace my hardware if it fails. But at some point XP may find that the changes are 'suspect' and require me to re-activate my legally bought copy. Will Microsoft continue to run their activation servers?

    If not, will Microsoft provide a 'Golden Key' to activate without their Genuine Advantage Farm??

    • by Cimexus (1355033) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @05:05AM (#39655183)

      I'm pretty sure yes, they will continue to run their activation servers for a long time. As you say, your license doesn't expire.

      If in the bleak, distant future when robots rule the world you are still using XP and MS wants to turn off the activation servers they will probably release a patch to disable the activation stuff, or provide a 'golden key' as you say. I'm sure by then they won't care too much about potential piracy of a 20+ year old OS. (That'd be like them caring that I may or may not have some pirated floppy disks of DOS 6.22 sitting in my garage somewhere...)

    • As a case study, at the end of it's life "Money Plus" had activation bits removed and Microsoft released a "Sunset" version which did not require activation:
      http://www.microsoft.com/download/en/details.aspx?id=20738 [microsoft.com]

      Office XP is the first mainstream product requiring activation that has left the extended support phase of the lifecycle. The activation and update servers for it are still live.

      I believe Microsoft has on several occasions said they will provide "golden key", patch, or whatever to work around Act

  • by wye43 (769759) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @03:35AM (#39654751)

    Someone, please, just think of the poor children running SCADA systems!
    Oh wait, its only Windows XP
    Oh wait, its actually in 2 years
    Oh wait, its just support

    Seriously, do we need a "Windows XP is gone and the world is already burning" scare-article posted every month on Slashdot? For the entire period of 7 years of pre-announced end of support for an ancient OS? This shouldn't even be on idle. Is this a tech site or little Suzie's shopping ground for pink dresses?

  • Windows 95? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Black Parrot (19622) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @03:55AM (#39654833)

    Does anyone know what *actually* happened when everybody was saying the same thing about the end of support for Windows 95 a few years back?

    Big problem, little problem, no problem?

  • by couchslug (175151) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @05:23AM (#39655241)

    "English, motherfucker! Do you speak it?"

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 12, 2012 @08:07AM (#39656033)

    We have a small family business in a city where much of our good manufacturing jobs have gone overseas. Everybody who walks in the front door is looking for a deal because they have no money, or perhaps because their new job at Wal-Mart doesn't pay like the old one.

            I don't have the customer base or cashflow to just upgrade at a whim. My major issue is we have several commercial duty printers that cost several thousand dollars each. We do some pretty customized printing, odd sized paper, etc. Under Win 7, NONE of these printers will do anything more than single sided sheet of paper, cannot even duplex. I've contacted HP directly, had the Xerox people in here, and in both cases, they refuse to provide new drivers that will make these printers work under Win 7 the same way they do under XP. Even simple things like duplexing cannot be done in some cases. The official response form these companies? But a new printer. That's it.

              I do run linux, but you know something, even though I can make these printers work under linux no problem, there is no good substitute for Pagemaker and/or Indesign in Linux. As long as Scribus does not or cannot import my Pagemaker and./or InDesign files, it is useless to me. I have a library of almost 20 years of Pagemaker and InDesign files that we created from the ground up, and untill I can import them, Scribus and therefore by extention I cannot use Linux.

          So I do not mind upgrading to Win 7 in itself, it's the fact that some of my high end printers and scanners do not work well with Win 7 because "They are too old".

          One more thing - some - well heck, many of these new printers are junk. My old, Made in Japan printers had heavy duty metal bearings and gears. Many of the new, brand name printers made in China use plastic gear and bears, or cheaper metal they physically breaks down more often than the old printers. A ten year duty cycle of heavy day to day use was not uncommon for a good HP, today I am told expect three years then toss it.

      Yeah, in an economy when money is tight everywhere, the upgrade to Win 7 is not doing me much good. For all you guys who say you have no sympathy for guys like me who don't want to upgrade, well sorry, money is tight, we have to keep a tight ship, and when I see perfectly good hardware unable to run under Win 7 simply because somebody will not make a driver for it, well, as Judge Judy would say "Don't pee on my leg and tell me it's raining."

  • by Aidtopia (667351) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @09:32AM (#39656719) Homepage Journal

    Fourteen years sounds like a long time to support a software product. Yet I find it interesting to point out that, in the U.S., any "inventions" that debuted with the release of Windows XP will still have 6 years of patent protection, and the code itself will have another 75 years of copyright protection. This is for a product that's already been unavailable commercially for a while and will be completely dead in two more years.

    Overly long IP lifetimes hurt security, technological progress, innovation, and culture.

  • NT4, W2k, now XP (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gstrickler (920733) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @09:59AM (#39657095)

    A client ran an NT4 server (one out of about a dozen servers) until 2009, well past the end of support. They also had a couple W2k servers in that mix, also past the end of support. You know what happened? Nothing! The machines continued to perform just as well as they had for the previous 8-10 years. The reason those weren't upgraded is because they worked very well, and an upgrade simply wasn't necessary, and would have been very costly.

    We did take precautions, including; making sure those machines weren't connected to the internet, were locked down as well as we could lock them down, and had anti-virus (for which we downloaded updates daily) software, etc. While the clients had internet access, they too were locked down (users were "users", restricted access to all directories except their own profile, couldn't install anything, etc), and had AV and anti-malware that were updated daily. Windows updates were pushed nightly from MS SUS.

    This isn't a looming crisis. You've got 2 more years to prepare or upgrade. As long as you take actions to isolate and protect those systems as much as possible, they can run XP for another 10 or 20 years (as long as you can keep compatible hardware running)

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