Microsoft Corp. will end all support services for its XP operating system on April 9. After that, there won’t be any more technical updates even if safety deficiencies are found in the operating system. So, individuals and organizations should not waste time in ensuring that their computers are protected by other means, if necessary, from the risks of virus infection and unauthorized access by hackers.

XP went on the market in 2001. In Japan, sales coincided with the spread of Internet usage. Many individuals and businesses’ computers came with the XP system installed. Although newer Microsoft operating systems have come out since — Window Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8 — XP remains popular.

Microsoft has been calling on its users for some time to switch over to newer operating systems. But because of cost and technical difficulties, it is feared that many individuals and businesses will continue to use XP. According to an estimate by IDC Japan, a research company, there are some 13 million XP-installed personal computers (PCs) in Japan. Microsoft Japan hopes to reduce that to fewer than 7.5 million by April 9. IDC Japan expects that the number will fall to around 7.2 million by the end of June.

The Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry, which surveyed the nation’s prefectural and municipal governments in October, says that some 720,000 of nearly 2 million government PCs have XP intalled, and that some 260,000 of them won’t be given new operating systems. Regarding the central government, as of November it was reported that some 5,000 central government PCs will continue to use the XP operating system despite the ending of Microsoft’s support for it.

Deficiencies are commonly found in PC software and the XP system was no exception. Microsoft has frequently distributed free updates to correct XP problems since its release to prevent hackers from taking advantage of them.

The end of Microsoft’s support activities for XP will mean that new problems will go uncorrected, thus exposing XP-installed PCs to possible cyberattacks. While antivirus software may help prevent some attacks, it has its limits. Hackers can use viruses and exploit software weaknesses to penetrate networks and steal personal information, corporate secrets and even money.

Some businesses and other organizations may be tempted to continue to use XP because the proprietary software that they are using is based on it and they fear that problems could emerge if they upgrade their operating system. They should be aware that they have a responsibility to protect important data. There will be no excuse if they are targeted by cyberattacks and suffer damage as a result. They should realize that such a scenario could lead to them losing the public trust they have worked many years to build.

Individuals who continue to use XP should also be aware of the possible dangers. Even if they do not store important information in their PCs, a hacker can take over their PCs and remotely control them, perhaps even using them to launch cyberattacks against other computers. It is important for XP users to realize that continued use of the XP operating system could bring about serious consequences. If they do not have the time and money to replace their XP operating systems soon, at the very least they should refrain from going online until they upgrade to a more secure operating system.

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