Home > End of Windows XP support poses security risk to industrial systems

End of Windows XP support poses security risk to industrial systems


With support for Windows XP having officially ceased on April 8, 2014, users of the 12-year-old operating system will no longer receive security updates or technical support.

Microsoft has stated that ‘PCs running Windows XP after April 8, 2014, should not be considered to be protected, and it is important that you migrate to a current supported operating system’.

Issue will impact industrial automation

The cessation of support for the XP OS will impact millions of personal and professional users worldwide, including several companies that have implemented Windows XP in industrial automation applications. As the longest-supported Windows operating system, XP is most widely used in industrial automation, which means that potential issues arising from the discontinued support could affect a large number of end users.

A major concern related to the continued use of Windows XP in industrial automation is cyber security. Without ongoing security updates to protect systems from attacks, users will be exposed to new threats that can exploit vulnerabilities of the operating system. Threats to industrial automation equipment operating on Windows XP exist, perhaps most notably industrial PCs (IPCs) and distributed control systems (DCS).

Industrial automation’s market response

Since the original announcement in 2007 that XP support will end in April 2014, many end users have upgraded to more modern operating systems that Microsoft says will continue to be supported. Larger companies, especially those driven by IT departments, were typically more proactive in making advance preparations to upgrade early where necessary. However, smaller companies, especially those that may be less driven by IT, have delayed upgrades until absolutely necessary, with many yet to convert.

Although a large number of end users have migrated in recent years and there is a requirement for many more to follow during the next 12 months, IHS Technology believes that the overall impact on the industrial automation equipment market will be fairly modest.  

XP is just one example of an area that will require compensating controls for necessary security requirements to be met in an organisation.

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