At the end of the first quarter of 2014, some very important events have occurred on the IT front that you should be made aware of. First, Windows XP, which has long been the work-horse for business, has reached the end of its support life. This creates security issues, privacy concerns and should be a very serious consideration. The second is the recent Heartbleed bug. While this doesn’t affect anything you have physically in your possession, it does affect some internet (or cloud) based services, which is a more immediate issue.
Windows XP – End-of-Life
XP has been with us for around 11 years and has been attempted to be phased out a couple of different times. Microsoft has finally said this is it. The only exception to this appears to be in the financial sector. Banks use XP on a good portion of their desktops and ATM machines. Microsoft and other third-party vendors will continue to support them until 2016. For you, any desktops or laptops still running XP will be particularly vulnerable to security hacks and these errors in coding (or weak points, depending on your view) will no longer be fixed. Leaving you vulnerable.
The only real way around this is to use a more modern operating system such as Windows 7 or higher. Now might be a good time to look at switching to a Mac… Any way you go, if you’re still using Windows XP, odds are the computer itself is fairly outdated too and should be replaced as soon as possible.
This will affect most of you. In laymans’ terms, the secure method used to transfer information across the internet is both sent and received using a method of transfer requiring an encryption key. If someone or something gets access to that key, your data is no longer secure. That’s what happened. Some say it was the NSA who perpetrated this, some say a group of hackers. Either way the net result for you is the same: Your internet passwords need to be changed..
The one you use to log onto your computer was not affected. The ones you need to worry about are your Hotmail, Yahoo, Gmail, AOL, etc. web-based email accounts. In addition to those, anyone using Dropbox, Box, Sugar Sync or other web-based storage services. Amazon Web Services was also affected, which means the vast majority of online backup services will be too. Your banking passwords are listed as unaffected, however, the list I have only contains the major financial institutions. I know a lot of us use Citizens, Four Corners, Bank of the Southwest, etc. As a safety precaution, I’d recommend changing those as well or contacting your financial institution to be sure. Social networking sites really got hit. Everything from Facebook to Flickr was affected, those all need to be changed.
Apple, Microsoft and Amazon were not affected. By that, I mean their websites weren’t compromised because they don’t use that particular security method. Which means you DON’T need to change your iTunes, Hotmail or Amazon.com passwords. I mentioned Amazon Web Services earlier, which is a different animal. I’m referring to the Amazon shopping site here, which was not touched.
A really good rule of thumb is to simply change all your online passwords. Sooner rather than later.
I hope this was a help to you, as always if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I’m happy to help you and your business through this difficult time any way I can.
Thanks for reading!
If you need more information or for a free technology consultation, contact me!