Thousands of industrial systems will be affected as they begin to go without security updates or technical support. Microsoft pulled its support for Windows XP officially on April 8, 2014. The company advised users to migrate to a current OS, as XP systems will no longer be protected. Unfortunately, XP is the most widely used industrial automation OS.
It’s not as if there wasn’t notice; it’s actually been years since Microsoft announced that support would cease in April 2014. Larger companies have likely migrated to new systems as their IT departments are typically well prepared for these events. It’s the smaller, IT-less company, however, where there may be challenges, especially on the security and virus front.
XP has been on the market for a dozen years and is the longest-supported Windows OS.
Obviously, there are a few choices. Buy a new PC, move data via Laplink -- a data migration solution with step-by-step instructions -- and move to Windows 8.1, and plan to either create or outsource an IT effort.
Without security updates to protect systems from attacks, ultimately, you’re the proverbial sitting duck. Such threats are becoming common in industrial automation equipment using Windows XP, industrial PCs, and distributed control systems.
In an advisory, information/analysis provider IHS stated that it doesn’t think pulling XP support will affect that many companies. Likely the ones that are the most vulnerable would have other vulnerabilities besides XP, especially if they lack an internal IT effort. These are the companies that consider security to be a matter of installing firewalls. And, while the loss of XP in itself would probably not expose them anymore than they have been, given their inadequate attention to security, don’t you think the numbers of attacks will increase since the XP situation provides a playground for hackers they just won’t be able to resist?
— Carolyn Mathas is a freelance blogger and editor for EE Times's Industrial Control Designline