You’ve probably heard by now about the Target data breach, but just this week other retailer data breaches during the 2013 holiday season have become known. In light of these broad, major data breaches, this is a great time to ask yourself: When was the last time you evaluated your business’s IT network? If this has been an area of your business that you’ve let slide, then let it slide no more!
Several months back, Microsoft announced that it will no longer support its Windows XP operating system, effective April 8, 2014. This means that the software company will not be developing or pushing out security patches for Windows XP. That said, computers that operate on the Windows XP operating system will become increasingly susceptible to being exposed to spyware, malware and other viruses that are capable of stealing your personal information, and potentially your customers information. Examples of information that could be at risk are online banking credentials, social security numbers and credit or debit card numbers.
Why Hackers Are A Concern
A ComputerWorld article shares that with the impending retirement of Windows XP, computer hackers may be gearing up for a massive attack against Windows XP systems. Basically, the article explains that hackers may be storing up and holding tons of spyware, malware and other virus programs, and waiting to unleash these programs until Windows XP retirement date. If your Windows XP operating system gets infected, you and your business could be at risk for sensitive data being stolen.
How You Should Prepare
Every business has unique business needs and will handle the Windows XP retirement in various ways. If your business runs on Windows XP, or you have a handful of computers that use this operating system, here are some things you should or shouldn’t do before and/or after April 8, 2014:
- Upgrade your business’s operating system.
- If upgrading all of your computers isn’t an option, then upgrade what you can and reserve a handful of Windows XP computers for historical purposes, such as storing images and pictures.
- After April 8, 2014, do not use computers running on the old Windows XP system for Internet browsing or surfing. Also, don’t do any online banking or enter any debit or credit card transactions on Windows XP computers.
- Deny XP systems to access the Internet and allow them to only be used for local network processing. Be careful though – even in this scenario there’s the possibility that XP systems could be infected via USB memory sticks, CDs or other types of media.
IT Audit Help
It’s important that your business evaluate all of your options carefully. You’ve got until April 8, 2014, to decide what to do, so don’t wait. There’s too much at risk to put this off. If you know you need to take action on this, but aren’t sure exactly where to start, contact Rea & Associates. Our IT audit team can help you identify what you need to do to protect you and your customers.
Author: Brian Garland, CPA (Dublin office)