Shocker: Windows XP can still be very secure

When Microsoft cut off support for Windows XP, some companies weren’t willing or able to upgrade. A study of antivirus vendors finds that might not have been the fatal move that was predicted. 

Security software testing site AV-TEST recently took a look at 23 companies that offered products to protect consumers using Windows XP from attack and eight aimed at protecting businesses after XP’s support deadline passed. They found that true to their promises, many of these companies were doing a very good job detecting malware.

Some were downright perfect.

By the numbers

According to the site’s findings:

  • three security suites – Bitdefender, Kaspersky Lab and Panda Cloud Free – received perfect scores, and
  • another nine scored between 16 and 17.5 points on an 18 point scale, which AV-TEST describes as “excellent performance.”

All eight of the security suites for business tested well, also, which shows that these security software programs can still be an effective tool in IT’s arsenal.

In perhaps the most important category, detecting the 24,000 known strains of malware that AV-TEST tested for, 13 of 23 consumer solutions received a perfect score, and seven out of eight business solutions got a perfect grade. (Lower scores on performance and usability metrics kept some of these solutions from receiving perfect overall scores.)

Protected, but not safe

Many of the companies behind these findings agreed on three key facts:

  • they’d continue to support XP until there’s no longer a consumer demand for it
  • they haven’t seen huge, coordinated attacks against the unsupported OS, and
  • users should probably upgrade to a safer OS as soon as possible.

If Windows 8 isn’t your preferred choice – and chances are, it isn’t – there are other options. Windows 7 isn’t due for end of mainstream support until January of 2020 (when we will probably all be driving hover cars and living on the moon). Windows 9 (which, rumor has it, will just be called “Windows”) will probably be announced later this month and take some hard-learned lessons from Windows 8’s short-comings.

Regardless of the route you choose, if you have any machines running the now-outdated OS make sure they’re:

  • protected by antivirus or other security measures
  • not used for risky activity, like heavy web browsing or frequent email (vectors for these attacks), and
  • checked regularly for vulnerabilities, including out-of-date apps.