Would an efficient antivirus keep Windows XP safe after Microsoft drops support for the system?

Drsunil V March 19, 2014
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To what extent would an efficient antivirus be able to overcome the lack of online support by Microsoft to Windows XP after April 8th 2014?

  1. Hovsep A
    March 20, 2014 at 7:31 pm

    Microsoft antimalware support for Windows XP
    http://blogs.technet.com/b/mmpc/archive/2014/01/15/microsoft-antimalware-support-for-windows-xp.aspx
    . To help organizations complete their migrations, Microsoft will continue to provide updates to our antimalware signatures and engine for Windows XP users through July 14, 2015.
    Microsoft recommends best practices to protect your PC such as:
    •Using modern software that has advanced security technologies and is supported with regular security updates
    •Regularly applying security updates for all software installed
    •Running up-to-date anti-virus software
    Running a well-protected solution starts with using modern software and hardware designed to help protect against today's threat landscape.

    The Risk of Running Windows XP After Support Ends April 2014
    http://blogs.technet.com/b/security/archive/2013/08/15/the-risk-of-running-windows-xp-after-support-ends.aspx
    Windows XP will essentially have a “zero day” vulnerability forever.

  2. pceasies
    March 19, 2014 at 3:24 pm

    Antivirus will keep you no safer than you currently are with patches. As Windows XP goes upatched, you will increase the risk of someone being able to gain remote access and do whatever they want to your computer. Newer versions of Windows have built-in security mechanisms to prevent common attack vectors including features like UAC to prevent all programs from having administrator access. You could mitigate threats more effectively by using software such as Comodo Firewall with Defense Plus. This will prompt for confirmation when programs are trying to modify settings (similar to UAC). This will also block income connections unless explicitly allowed. Of course, you'd have to configure this in a high security mode and it would be very difficult to analyze and effectively decide on all prompts and connections. Especially if your computer is in a network. Additionally, if you're still running Windows XP, you either have an old computer, or your running the x64 version that struggles with compatibility (or at least did when I tried it).

    • Drsunil V
      March 20, 2014 at 5:16 pm

      Thanks. AV cannot avoid pc intrustion through patchless sys?

  3. dragonmouth
    March 19, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    As Oron J says, A/V and a firewall will only protect you against KNOWN threats. In that respect, Win 7 or 8.x or any future version, is no better protected than XP or Win 98. Nothing will protect you from future unknown vectors of attack.

  4. Jan F
    March 19, 2014 at 1:13 pm

    My overall answer would be No.

    An Antivirus no matter how good protects you only against selected malware.
    An open vulnerability might allow an attacker to get into the system regardless of any antivirus or firewall (e.g. MS10-061 remote code execution via print spooler).

    You should have a decent antivirus and a firewall (if your router/modem doesn't have one) running on any system at all times, be it XP, Win 7, Win 8 or even a brand new supported and updated Windows 8.1. So really, the end of support and lack of updates will certainly decrease the security.

  5. Oron J
    March 19, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    That is an excellent question, but one which is impossible to answer with any certainty!
    A good antivirus product (or preferably, a combination of AV, firewall and anti-malware products) will protect your computer from most known vectors of attack. There are two problems however:

    • As new vulnerabilities in Windows XP (or indeed, in applications) are discovered, they won't be patched, and since they haven't been discovered yet, we don't know how they could be utilised and whether an antivirus would be able to block them effectively.
    • It is likely that if a new form of attack is discovered, security companies will eventually come up with a solution, but it may take time and it may be difficult to implement. Think of the early days of rootkits for example. Initially, we knew of the possibility of rootkits existing, but there were no reliable tools to find them. Even when they were fine, the only way to clean a PC was initally by rebuilding the PC. Later, bootable discs were used to clear them (not always effectively), and only more recently have we had the choice of excellent tools to deal with them. What will it be like with XP? Who knows?

    All that said, I believe (and it's only my opinion, based on observing the what happened in this area over the last few decades) the risk to most individuals will be small. If you use reliable software (particularly browsers), good security software (including a firewall that won't let any non-whitelisted application send out info) and generally engage in "responsible computing", your chances of having your machine infected or taken over is small. Initially, there will be many hackers & virus writers who will be targeting XP, but the level of protection will be relatively high (not many new vulnerabilities discovered, security companies paying lots of attention etc). With time, as the number of XP machines dwindles and they become more of a niche, those malefactors will turn their attention to other platforms. Put it this way, who writes viruses for Windows 98 today?

    • Jeff F
      March 19, 2014 at 8:54 pm

      This is a damn good answer, Oron. I couldn't have said it better myself.

    • Bruce E
      March 20, 2014 at 6:08 am

      Another item to consider is that after Microsoft drops support for XP other companies who have still been developing software that continues to run on it will begin dropping their support for the platform as well. This means that if you are using Firefox, Opera or Chrome as your primary web browser on XP, be prepared to find that they will discontinue their support for those browsers on XP in the next 6 months or so. This goes for all other software that runs on XP including security software. This is the pattern we had with Windows 95/98 and Win2K. I don't expect anything different this time around either.

    • Drsunil V
      March 20, 2014 at 5:15 pm

      Thanks. Please tell how safe was win 98 proved to be , when support for it was dropped. Are there webreferences validating win 98 safety post support-drop

    • Oron J
      March 20, 2014 at 8:57 pm

      Some people kept using Windows 98 for a while after its demise, and I've never come across anyone who got an "incurable" infection or was hacked specifically through an unpatched Win 98 vulnerability. However, security a decade ago was in quite a different place than it is today, so I don't think that a direct comparison is helpful. My point was that today, no one would bother to target a Windows 98 PC because there are too few of them about.

      It's clear that there is no immediate threat. Windows XP is here, security software for it is well developed and nothing immediate will happen on the 9th April. It's also clear that in 5 years time there won't be much of a problem (that's where my Win 98 argument came in). What is unclear is at what rate the risk vectors (i.e. vulnerabilities) will rise vs the rate of dissappearance of Windows XP PCs. My call is that for individual (not large organisations, that's a whole other kettle of fish), the risk to each user will remain small.

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