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Ditch Windows XP, warns Help AG

Microsoft to end support for operating system on April 8.

Help AG: Windows XP has a 400% greater risk of malware infection than Windows 8.1 does
Help AG: Windows XP has a 400% greater risk of malware infection than Windows 8.1 does

Solutions provider Help AG has warned business and home users in the Middle East to cease using Windows XP ahead of April 8, when Microsoft will discontinue support for the operating system.

Any users who continue to use the venerable OS after the deadline risk exposure to a flood of security vulnerabilities, the firm said in a statement.

Even as things now stand, Windows XP has a 400% greater risk of malware infection than Windows 8.1 does, thanks to improvements that have been added with each iteration of the operating system, Help AG said. That percentage will only rise when Microsoft ends support for Windows XP, it added.

"XP users need to understand that, after the end of support, there will be no official way to fix any OS vulnerabilities," said Nicolai Solling, director of technology services at Help AG.

"Not only this, anti-virus (AV) vendors too will reduce or even completely abandon their efforts to update their solutions for this operating system leading to a scenario wherein new developments in the field of AV technology will completely bypass Windows XP."

Windows XP still makes up a large portion of the desktop OS market - 29.53%, according to netmarketshare.com. And with official support soon to be ended, Help AG predicted that hackers will be keen to target this large pool of vulnerable users.

The solutions provider added that, as well as traditional threats, XP users will also be affected by emerging zero-day vulnerabilities, which will not be fixed after Microsoft support is ceased.

"With no fixes available, this list will only grow making usage of the OS a horribly poor decision from a security perspective," Solling said.

Help AG recommended Windows 8.1 as the most suitable upgrade path for XP users, as Microsoft's upgrade cycle for the new operating system provides the most compelling protection against cyber-attackers.

"With Windows 8, Microsoft introduced a much more aggressive release cycle, meaning new versions are available every six to nine months. From a security standpoint, this is a good thing as architectural fixes to software are made more frequently than before," Solling said.