ESET: Quarantine Windows XP PCs in Case You Get Attacked

Windows XP is no longer a supported operating system, so it doesn’t receive updates and security patches, so users still running it are recommended to upgrade to a newer platform as fast as possible.

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However, those who decide to stick to Windows XP are still advised to take some measures to block any incoming threats and thus make sure that cybercriminals won’t manage to get into their computers.

Security vendor ESET, whose apps will continue to work on Windows XP until 2017, said in an advisory that cutting off the Internet connection on machines running the unsupported operating system is a must-have in case some exploits are being discovered in the wild.

While others recommended users to disconnect their Windows XP machines from the Internet entirely, ESET says that quarantining them when attacks are being found is a much better solution because it allows IT admins and users to take the necessary actions to protect their data.

“You certainly need to be able to get systems off the network, and time spent on planning is rarely wasted, though the recommendation invites the question, how will you recognize a successful attack, or at any rate recognize it any more promptly than before? And shouldn’t you already have a means of isolating any or all systems in the event of a breach?” David Harley, ESET Senior Research Fellow, said.

“A critical XP exploitation is just one attack scenario, and not necessarily the likeliest. It’s likely that XP-specific attack research will decline as XP’s market share declines, especially in terms of attacks that target the large enterprises that can’t afford to support XP indefinitely.”

Windows XP is still powering 28 percent of the desktop computers worldwide, but only a few have actually expressed their intention to move to another platform in the coming months.

Microsoft, on the other hand, warns that without support, Windows XP could easily get hijacked once an unpatched vulnerability is found, pointing out that third-party security apps are not enough to block all attacks.

“If you continue to use Windows XP now that support has ended, your computer will still work but it might become more vulnerable to security risks and viruses. Internet Explorer 8 is also no longer supported, so if your Windows XP PC is connected to the Internet and you use Internet Explorer 8 to surf the web, you might be exposing your PC to additional threats,” the company explained.

Another way to protect yourself when browsing the web is to replace Internet Explorer with another browser still working on Windows XP and receiving updates, such as Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. Both are expected to support Windows XP for at least two more years, so most security vulnerabilities should be fixed by their respective owners.