Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Does the end of Windows XP support mean trouble for photographers using it?

Windows XP Professional splash screenDoes your computer run on Microsoft Windows XP? If it does, you're not alone. As of the end of last month, NetMarketShare reported almost 30% of computers world-wide are still running Microsoft Windows XP, more than three times the total number of Apple computers running all versions of OSX.

As of April 8th, Microsoft is ending support for Windows XP. That means Microsoft will no longer be providing security fixes, and other critical updates and patches to the 13 year old operating system.

You might ask if the end of Microsoft Windows XP support signals upcoming trouble for its users? In my opinion, it does!

Windows XP users have already found updated versions of their most used software and new software, won't run under Windows XP. Most Microsoft Windows based software being released today requires Windows 7 or Windows 8/8.1 to run.

Photographers, in particular, will be able to use older software to postprocess images from most cameras existing prior to February 2014, however, according to the software the photographer uses, unless images from newer cameras are saved in the most general formats, such as JPG or TIFF, their images won't be able to be processed if the new postprocessing software can't run in Windows XP. Already, for example, older versions of Photoshop and Lightroom can't process RAW formatted image files from the Nikon D4S, Nikon D3300, and the Canon EOS 1200D.

More and more software is no longer backwardly compatible with Windows XP.
The main problem for photographers using Microsoft Windows XP is security.
We have seen in recent years, new security vulnerabilities in our computers seem to be discovered almost weekly, and need to be patched. Microsoft and the other operating system providers like Apple, regularly write update patches for their “current” operating systems and other programs, to fix their security vulnerabilities and bugs.

As operating systems get older, the companies drop them from support, due to usage, cost, and other considerations.

This month there were eight critical and important security patches for the different versions of Windows XP made available by Microsoft. After April 8th there will be no more patches and fixes. As security holes in Windows XP continue to be found by hackers, and others intent to exploit those problems, Windows XP computers will become more and more vulnerable to attack and compromise, possibly causing the loss of critical user data.

There are methods and tools Windows XP based travel users can utilize to mitigate the security problems which could affect Windows XP.

• If you haven't done so already, install the final Windows XP service pack, SP3, on your computer, then install all critical, and security updates for the operating system. This will likely take a number of iterations, as there will be updates to updates. Continue updating and restarting your computer between updates, until there are no more critical or security updates listed to install.

• If you haven't yet done so, install Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) on your Windows XP computer. Microsoft has agreed to support MSE through July 14, 2015. Use Microsoft Update to update MSE and Microsoft's Malicious Software Removal Tool, now part of MSE.

• Make sure you're running one of the antivirus programs which will run on Windows XP, such as Avast, AVG, and Norton. Be sure to keep its virus updates, and the program current.

• Install an antispyware program on your Windows XP computer. Antivirus programs are good at preventing virus and virus-like infections, but aren't as good spyware protectors. Products like Malwarebytes Pro and Spyhunter can save your computer from spyware problems.

• Regularly backup all your important data, including documents, spreadsheets, and mail, to the cloud and/or an external drive.

• The biggest security hole in Windows XP is Internet Explorer (IE), the built-in web browser from Microsoft. For photographers, like others, Internet browsers are likely among your most used software, along with an email program, which may be IE, if you're a webmail user.

The problem with IE under Windows XP, is you're stuck with the vulnerable IE, version 8 (IE8), while the current, far more secure version of Internet Explorer is IE11. IE version 9 and above won't run on Windows XP.
IE8 could be the single most vulnerable part of Windows XP, and for many photographers using Windows XP, it is highly used software on their computers enabling photographers to research, obtain firmware updates, display their images in galleries, partake of online education, etc.
If you're using Windows XP, immediately stop using IE, and instead use the current versions of such browsers as Firefox, and Chrome, both of which will run on Windows XP, and both of which are far more secure than IE8.

Finally, if you're still using a Windows XP computer, while the above measures will help for a while, it's time for an upgrade. If you're sticking to Windows, upgrade to Windows 7 which will be an easy move, or Windows 8.1 which will require some change in your computing. Either one will have far superior security, and the ability to run all the latest software available today. (Note, there may be some older programs you're running on Windows XP today, that might not run on Windows 7 and above.)


Paul said...

I've been chugging along with XP and saw no reason to change. I saw other articles about no support but didn't know what it meant. Serious Ned how bad can it be to keep using this. I have a Canon 7D and no in the market for a new camera for a long time. The old software works great. I just don't see the point in changing. Good article though.

Ned S. Levi said...

Paul, you may get lucky, and you may not, but there is no doubt that you are far more vulnerable to being hacked by one of these spyware or virus attacks than someone using Win 7 or Win 8. I can't tell you how many people are successfully attacked who are clients of my tech business, and they almost all are using Win XP at this point, and without patches to fix XP, over the next few months, it's only going to get worse and worse.

At least do yourself a big favor and stop using Internet Explorer.

Bill Graham said...


One more tip for the XP diehards:

Establish and log into a user account with no administrative privileges. Of all the zero-day vulnerability patches that Microsoft has issued for XP, more than 90% of the problems they fixed would not affect a user account. Up that to 97% for IE and you have a pretty good argument for the minor inconvenience of having to log in and provide a password to install new software.
Practice safe browsing, don't click on links in email and keep anti-virus software up to date, you should be pretty safe with XP.

Although why anyone would want to keep using XP is beyond me....

Great blog, Ned!

Ned S. Levi said...

Thanks Bill. Wonderful tips.

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