Veterinary practices running Windows XP will soon be attractive targets for hackers

Veterinary practices using Windows XP as part of their business operations have until April 8, 2014, before their important data is at substantial risk.

After April 8, Microsoft will cease support for Windows XP and no longer provide security updates. Computers still running the operating system will become veritable playgrounds for malicious hackers who are hungry for valuable data.

According to USA Today, not even antivirus programs will fully shield businesses from the inevitable onslaught by hackers. Piero DaPaoli, senior director of marketing at Symantec, told USA Today, "While Symantec will continue to support XP users for the foreseeable future … it's important for people to understand that there is no 'silver bullet' security software that can fully protect an OS that does not receive vulnerability updates."

As Small Business Trends points out, the obvious downside to this situation is that companies running Windows XP will have to spend money to either upgrade their Windows operating system or even switch to a different one entirely. But compared to the potential for expensive and time-consuming damage done by hackers, computer experts widely agree that the expenditure is well worth it.

Alternatives to Windows XP

Small Business Trends recommended several options for businesses that need to protect their data, including:

  1. Upgrade to Windows 7. The website recommended bypassing Windows Vista in favor of Windows 7 because Vista should also lose Microsoft support in a few years.
  2. Install Windows 8.1. Small Business Trends suggested that businesses first verify that their computers are powerful enough to handle Windows 8.1 before installing.
  3. Consider switching to Mac OSX. The website explains that even older Apple models can run the latest Mac operating system (Mavericks). This means businesses could conceivably purchase older models and still use Mavericks.

For people who are attached to Windows XP and refuse to abandon the operating system, USA Today said these risk-takers should be selective about which files they download, keep firewalls up, and avoid using accounts with administrator permissions.