Millions of Windows PC users are still vulnerable to cyberattacks, and this is why
Millions of Windows PC owners are still leaving themselves open to attacks from cybercriminals. Despite launching back in 2001, Microsoft’s long-since retired Windows XP is still being used by millions of people worldwide, according to new data published by NetMarketShare.
Despite no longer being supported by Microsoft, a staggering 1.26 percent of all laptops and desktop machines globally are still relying on Windows XP. For a 19-year-old operating system, that’s pretty impressive. And it’s also a little concerning. After all, Windows XP officially reached its end of life back in April 14, 2014. That means Microsoft hasn’t rolled out regular security updates, new features, bug patches, or anything else in more than six years.
That’s not ideal – especially if you’re using Windows XP to browse the web, open email attachments, buy items online, and other high-risk activities which are more likely to put you in the firing line of hackers, cybercrooks and malicious software designed to steal your personal information or banking credentials.
If the latest marketshare statistics from NetMarketShare are correct, that would mean there are roughly 25.2 million PCs still up-and-running which are powered by Windows XP. That’s because most estimates currently place the number of Windows PCs in circulation at around two billion.
Interestingly, Windows XP has managed to cling on much better than some of its more recent siblings. For example, Windows 8 and Windows Vista only command a 0.57 percent and 0.12 percent share of that total two billion figure, respectively. That’s likely because both of these are widely derided as far from Microsoft’s finest hours – whereas Windows XP is widely-loved for its simple design (and lack of touchscreen-focused gimmicks à la Windows 8).
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If you’re running a machine that shipped with Windows XP preinstalled, chances are, it’s going to have a tough time making the leap to the only Microsoft operating system still actively being supported by the Redmond-based company – Windows 10. At this point, you’re only option is really going to be to upgrade your laptop or desktop PC.
If you’re not connected to the internet and only using your Windows XP machine as a simple word processor, that might not be necessary. But anything that leaves you open to attack, it’s really worth spending the money to get a new PC at this point.
Windows 10 rolled back on a number of the radical changes that made Windows 8 such a stinker. Gone was the fullscreen touchscreen-focused Start Menu, replaced with a more traditional menu in the bottom left-hand corner found on the likes of Windows XP and the widely-lauded Windows 7. Windows 10 does play nice with touchscreens, but it’s not the entire basis of the user interface design.
As it stands, Windows 10 powers more than 60 percent of all computers worldwide. That’s a healthy increase from a little over 50 percent 12 months ago.
With the steady rise of Windows 10 PCs, Windows 7 has seen a decline in marketshare. During that same timeframe, Windows 7 dropped from 31.53 percent to 22.31 percent worldwide marketshare. Windows 7 reached the end of life back in January – something that clearly pushed a number of users to abandon the software in favour of Windows 10 faster than they otherwise would have – meaning it no longer receives regular security of stability updates.
With Windows XP and Windows 7, cybercriminals are now safe in the knowledge that Microsoft will not respond to malware and other malicious attacks on users. And if there is a glitch in the operating system that allows personal data to be copied or nefarious apps to be installed without users’ permission, this will remain available to hackers for the rest of time. This makes platforms which have reached end of life incredibly attractive to online ne’er-do-wells.
While this isn’t as much of a problem if users quickly move to a newer operating system that’s still actively being supported, it can be disastrous when there are still huge numbers of people relying on unsupported software. And with Windows XP especially, that seems to be the case.
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