2014 sees some significant licensing and support changes from Microsoft. The software giant will issue their last security patch for Windows XP, MS Office 2003 and Exchange Server 2003 on 8 April, which will have enormous consequences for businesses which still have pockets of old software active.
The world was a different place when Windows XP shipped in August 2001. Prior to XP Microsoft split their desktop operating system offerings into enterprise facing products (Windows NT, Windows 2000) and home/small business products (Windows 95/98/ME). The vast majority of small businesses moved onto XP from Windows 98 before support for 98 was withdrawn, so few businesses faced the prospect of losing critical security support for a widely-deployed desktop operating system.
Windows XP was hugely successful operating system which, due to various circumstances, survived on the desktop longer than any previous O.S. The released of it’s intended replacement, Windows Vista, was delayed by years as Bill Gates personally took Microsoft engineers back to the drawing board to create a more secure computing environment.
When Vista finally shipped it was slow. All that extra security came at a performance cost, which users didn’t like. XP needed patching to keep the hackers at bay but it was quick and familiar. Uptake of Vista never met expectations.
Windows 7 eventually replaced Vista but by then the recession had hit, uptake was again disappointing, but this time for commercial reasons. If your PC is less than six years old it’s likely to be Windows 7 or Windows 8 but if it’s older than that, it’s more likely to be Windows XP than Vista.
New security holes will continue to be found after 8 April 2014 but from that date on they will not be plugged, meaning a disproportion of malware exploitations will be concentrated on known open doors.
Office 2003 also goes out of security support on the same date but if you have this version of Office it’s likely to be running on Windows XP; the same PC population will be affected. The withdrawal of support for Exchange Server 2003 will bring a different set of challenges for servers.
Exchange Server is the world’s most popular email, calendar and contact management system. It scales from enterprises down to small businesses and is part of the soon-to-be-discontinued Windows Small Business Server (SBS) group of products. Exchange 2003 is now four versions old and there will be few larger businesses still using the product but research shows there are still a large number of Windows Small Business Server 2003 in use.
If you are still using SBS 2003 it’s time to look urgently to replace your server. Email systems based on Exchange 2003 will be wide open to exploitation after April 2014.