Microsoft will end support for its Windows XP operating system a week from today (8th April) yet many organisations are yet to upgrade to a newer version of Windows. In fact, recent reports suggest that not only are 30 percent of PCs worldwide running XP, but over half of the UK’s councils and 95 percent of the world’s cash machines run on Microsoft’s fated platform.

A huge number of organisations are still using XP and once Microsoft stops supporting it next week they are going to find themselves with gaping security holes. Time is now swiftly running out for those businesses to upgrade to a new operating system and it is likely that hackers will already be planning their attacks to exploit these vulnerabilities. Unless some form of action is taken now, anyone operating XP should be concerned.

While antivirus software and firewalls are the basic line of defence, they can’t stop everything – particularly as they already struggle to keep up with zero-day exploits. It is therefore imperative that other controls are put in place that can minimise this new weakness.

An effective measure would be to implement protective monitoring tools that provide complete visibility into the network. Not only can this strategy be implemented with relative speed, but as these solutions alert on any suspicious activity immediately, organisations are in a far better position to react and contain the threat before it causes any lasting damage.

Cyber attacks against businesses are already ten-a-penny, therefore there is really no excuse not to increase defences when there is a growing security threat – especially as they have been forewarned. Long-term, the only answer is to upgrade to a new operating system but, in the short-term, businesses can compensate by having the tools in place to know exactly what is happening on the network at all times.

Most organisations have to consider it a case of when they are breached, not if, and running XP without extra protection in place is simply going to make the ‘when’ occur faster.