It was one of the most popular and enduring versions of an operating system ever created by Microsoft, but an increase in potential IT security risks ought to lead more PC users to think about moving on from Windows XP.

Roughly three months after officially calling it quits on free assistance and bug support for Windows XP, Microsoft also ended anti-malware protection support on the popular desktop platform. Windows IT Pro noted that this marked a full year of helping prevent attackers from getting at systems using XP, even though the operating system (OS) had already reached the end of its long life. Lingering Windows XP customers may become a target for cybercriminals if they don’t transition to another, newer OS.

SC Magazine said that, despite being 14 years old, XP has a surprisingly large installed base of some 180 million PCs around the world. But unless users plan to make better use of third-party antivirus software products and services, zero-day attacks and other dangerous threats will be considerably more difficult to avoid. And it’s not like Microsoft hasn’t given its customers ample warning or enough time to start thinking about a transition.

The changes coincided with a similar move by Microsoft to end anti-malware protection for Windows Server 2003. Much like XP, some large business customers may decide to buy themselves some extra time by purchasing a custom support contract of some kind. But as Redmond Magazine pointed out, this can be an expensive way to keep mission-critical IT systems patched. In some respects, of course, XP may be a lot quicker to replace than Windows 2003, yet there’s also more of an urgent need to upgrade since it’s connected to the way users access the Internet and therefore could potentially encounter malware.

Recent security issues involving Microsoft technology should prompt business users to be more proactive in their OS switch. For example, The Register reported on an emergency patch the company has issued to deal with a remote code execution vulnerability. This affects Windows Adobe Type Manager library, and while the patch works for Windows Vista, Windows 8 and a few others, it won’t help users of Windows XP.

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