By Taddeo Bwambale
Microsoft has ended support for Windows XP software, implying that users of the operating system are at increased risk of attacks from cyber-thieves.
In a statement yesterday, Microsoft stated that there would be no ‘security updates and bug fixes’ for the operating system that is still widely used in Uganda and across the globe.
Microsoft introduced the Windows XP operating system in 2001 and it has been replaced by Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1.
“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,” the software giant warned.
IT experts warn of attacks
Albert Mucunguzi, the secretary of the Uganda ICT Association said XP users face a risk of cyber-attacks if they access to the internet.
Michael Nyitegeka, an IT consultant and lecturer said the best way to prevent cyber-attacks upgrade to a new operating system.
“The good thing is that Microsoft has created safety nets to allow one to migrate to another operating system without losing their data.”
Users of Windows XP who installed Microsoft Security Essentials will receive software support until July 14, 2015. However, Microsoft warned that even this would not guarantee security.
Government advises users
The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) yesterday advised XP users to upgrade to new operating system to prevent cyber threats.
“We advised XP users to either buy new software or upgrade in order to prevent the threats,” said Isaac Kalembe, the UCC spokesperson. He said most of Ugandans were still using XP.
James Saaka, the executive director of the National Information and Technology Authority (NITA-U) advised users of XP to install anti-virus systems while they prepare to upgrade.
“We are aware of the expiry of the software. However, there is a silver lining because vendors of antivirus software will continue supporting the software,” he explained.
“MacAfee, Symantec and Kaspersky have promised to continue supporting the system. We recommend users to deploy the software as they move to upgrade.”
Saaka disclosed that NITA was in the process of phasing out the use Windows XP in all Government ministries, departments and agencies before the end of the year.
Cyber experts have warned that Government databases using XP will be prone to cyber-attacks, following Microsoft’s announcement.
In 2012, hackers attacked the ministry of agriculture website and posted propaganda messages. Websites for Mulago Hospital and the Ministry of Defense were also targeted.
The Guardian newspaper reported on Tuesday that the UK and Dutch governments had paid Microsoft to continue providing security software updates for XP. The UK reportedly paid £5.5m for a one year extension.
A senior banking officer told New Vision yesterday that up to 90% of ATM machines are still running on a variant of XP called ‘Windows Embedded.’
Last month, cyber Security Company Symantec reported that hackers had devised new ways to force ATMs using Windows XP to spit out cash by sending them text messages.
Tips for XP users
• Upgrade to the latest version of Windows
• Update your antivirus software
• Don't click on email attachments you don't trust
• Do not connect from the Internet