Diocesan IT official encourages parishes to update Windows XP systems

By Patricia Kasten | The Compass | March 19, 2014

ALLOUEZ — On April 8, Microsoft will discontinue support and security updates on all computers using its popular Windows XP operating system. Support will also end for Office 2003.Microsoft-Windows-XP-logo.jpgweb2

Various media and tech sources report that 11 to 30 percent of computers currently use the Windows XP system. A March 17 Washington Post article reported that an estimated 10 percent of government computers are still using Windows XP, citing Microsoft.

While unable to estimate the number of computers in parishes and schools around the Green Bay Diocese using Windows XP, Nick Griffie, software systems administrator for the diocese, knows that there are many. He is very concerned because these will be vulnerable to hackers, viruses and malware after April 8.

“On April 9,” he said, “not everyone will get hacked, but I wouldn’t trust it with anything you log on to.”

He said that it’s not only the risk of viruses but the hacking of passwords for things like online banking that concern him.

“I would not recommend online banking, or logging on to a website that has the same user name and password you have for any online account,” Griffie said.

Windows XP was introduced to the general public in 2001. It remained the most popular of the Windows operating systems until the introduction of Windows 7 in 2012. Windows XP was succeeded by Windows Vista in late 2006.

Users of Windows XP have probably already noticed changes in their computers, Griffie added. This includes being slow to start or problems with Internet browsers such as Chrome or Firefox.

Microsoft has said that, for customers who currently use its Microsoft Essentials security, they will continue to update their malicious software removal (MSRT) until July 14, 2015. However, this will not be automatic and Griffie says the upgrades will be unlikely to prevent hackers.

While some computers may be upgradable to Windows Vista or Windows 7, Griffie said they will not operate optimally, and some programs may not work at all on them.

Griffie recommends getting a new PC. If that is cost-prohibitive, there are refurbished computers. He would recommend using one with Windows 7 Professional.  And it is important to remember that Windows Vista will no longer be supported by Microsoft after April 2017 and Windows 7 after Jan. 2020.

For those who can do it now, Griffie advises getting a computer with Windows 8.1, not Windows 8, because Windows 8.1 can be set to start as if it were the more familiar Windows 7 desktop. However, the trend of the future is the touch screen.

“Start trying to understand the tablet devices; that’s what operating systems are all going to,” Griffie said. “All the iPads, Androids, and surface machines, they are tablets. Soon, that’s how all machines will operate.”

If you’re still wondering what continuing to use Windows XP will be like after April 8, Griffie uses the analogy of driving a car and leaving both the car and house keys in it every time you stop somewhere.

“They won’t only get the car,” he said, “they will get all that other stuff. And it will be like that with hackers.”

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