A Microsoft insider has proclaimed that the coming end of Windows XP support, scheduled for April of next year will inevitably lead to hoard of so called “zombie” computers. While zombies in a computer sense aren’t your typical ghoulish, flesh-eating, undead creatures, they do present a very real threat, only rather than having an unsatisfiable hunger for brains, these zombies are after your credit cards and bank accounts. Zombie computers are computers that have been taken over to some extent by viruses, spyware, trojans, and other forms of malicious code. After the 8th of April, 2014, there will no longer be any updates or patches for Windows XP, which was first released over a decade ago, in 2001. Microsoft continually supports it’s software with updates designed to plug security holes and fix vulnerabilities. When this support ceases in April, as many as 400 million computers around the world, that are still running Windows XP, will become exposed to an untold number of new security threats.
While these new vulnerabilities will continue to be identified by Microsoft, the necessary fixes for them won’t be provided for Windows XP. This provides potential exploiters with a sort of road map pointing directly to new ways to attack the old operating system and leaves XP users in the dark. When hackers reverse-engineer the patches for newer Windows operating systems, they can find potential exploits for the out-of-date system, and create malware to take advantage of them. So, if you find that you’ve developed a sudden interest in same day payday loans, or you begin distributing important warnings on behalf of the FBI, you may be a zombie.
Once support for Windows XP stops, these newly developed methods of exploiting it will never again see a patch or update to counter them. The 20 to 25 percent of computers still running Windows XP at that point will easily fall prey to these exploits, and become part of massive hoards of zombie PCs, known as botnets. Botnets are comprised of PCs which have been taken over by hackers and are used to do their bidding. Whether it’s distributing more viruses or stealing credit card information, these massive botnets will present an enormous problem, not only for those PCs affected, but the Internet community as a whole.
So what’s the solution? For users of Windows XP, there’s really only one solution and that’s to upgrade your operating system to a newer version of Windows. The solution for those seeking to protect themselves against this coming onslaught of zombie machines is to insure that you have your windows updates turned on, a reliable firewall active at all times, and an attentive anti-virus solution installed.