Windows XP End of Support – Free Security Tools
Microsoft ended Windows XP Support on April 8, 2014 after 12 years. You cannot fault them for support it that long. Few cars last that long. No automatic patches or technical assistance will be provided unless you have a company contract with Microsoft. Microsoft antivirus software will cease to update after a while. What does this mean? From the Microsoft website:
- Your Computer might become more vulnerable to security risks and viruses
We would change the word 'might' to 'will'. You are now a sitting duck.
Microsoft goes on to suggest you upgrade your PC or buy a New one.
Here are some additional things you can do to stay as safe as possible.
Switch to a Limited account
Most Windows XP users are using their Administrator account. This all powerful account often leads to malware being installed due to the rights allowed the user.
Instead, switch to using a Limited account instead. Use the Administrator account sparingly, only when you need to install software or change settings, not when you are web surfing.
Switch to These Free Software Tools
These are several critical tools that every user should have installed on their system to increase security. These tools are not made by Microsoft but are a critical part of any free security software suite.
Office 2003 is not being updated any more. You need to switch to a more modern suite like the free OpenOffice or LibreOffice.
Google Chrome is one of the most popular web browser for Windows, Mac, and Linux. It gets updated constantly to fix security holes. Internet Explorer for Windows XP should not be used.
On 4/28/2014 a new Internet Explorer Vulnerability that had no patch, was being actively exploited by malware. US Computer Emergency Readiness Team suggests people stop using Internet Explorer. Windows XP users need to use an alternative browser like Chrome or Firefox.
Foxit Reader - PDF files are a widely used means of breaking into a computer. A 3rd party PDF-reading utility that has far fewer security holes than industry standard Adobe Reader. Malicious PDF files that are emailed, are one of the fastest growing infection vectors for malware. We recommend removing Adobe Reader or Adobe Acrobat Reader and using this instead.
Secunia - Scans your system for obsolete software. Older versions of software may possess security risks that must be fixed. If you find yourself updating a lot of software you do not use, uninstall the program. Older versions of software may no longer be updated, forcing users to pay for newer ones. Using old unsupported software may put you at a security risk. CNET Techtracker and PatchMyPC also help you stay abreast of software updates.
Zone alarm Free - A free firewall program that has been in existence for many years. It adds many capabilities and easy to access filters, over the one built into Windows.
Truecrypt - Free open-source software that encrypts critical files, folders, or entire drives. Utilizes extremely secure encryption algorithms. Store your most sensitive data within Truecrypt encrypted containers. Consider encrypting your entire drive if you own a laptop.
CCleaner - This utility goes way beyond Windows's disk cleanup tool. It helps remove unnecessary files to free up disk space, and to securely erase free space and deleted files. No need to ever pay for a utility that claims to speed up your machine or clean your registry. Supports 32-bit or 64-bit. Also cleans up files from many popular third party applications.
Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Free - is free software that helps you remove malware, not defend against it. They have paid versions which add additional features. Consider installing this program if you are unable to remove malware using the software utilities listed above. If Malwarebytes did not help to remove the infection, try SuperAntiSpyware Portable. Copy it to a CD or USB flashdrive, boot your computer into safe mode, then run the program. F-Secure has a free bootable Rescue CD that allows you to fix a computer that no longer starts up correctly.
WinPatrol - Takes snapshots of your critical system files and resources. The program then alerts you to any changes that may occur due to malware or installing software.
By applying several free Windows security utilities, we can significantly increase the security of our Windows XP notebook and desktop PCs. As Microsoft has stated, the best bet is to move to Windows 7 or Windows 8.