After 12 years, support for Windows XP will end on April 8, 2014. So proclaims a Microsoft website with a helpful clock counting down the days. "What does this mean?" the website asks. "It means you should take action." You should "migrate to a current supported operating system - such as Windows 8.1 - so you can receive regular security updates to protect [your] computer from malicious attacks." The costs of mass migration will be immense. About 30% of all desktop PCs are running Windows XP right now. An estimated 10% of the U.S. government's computers run Windows XP, including "thousands of computers on classified military and diplomatic networks." And the costs of staying put? They will be enormous, too. It turns out that 95% of the world's ATMs are powered by Windows XP, and there is no readily available substitute in the offing. In one example of these exorbitant costs, the price of either extending support or upgrading to another version of Windows for each of Britain's major banks will be in the hundreds of millions. Costs will be similar, or perhaps even higher, worldwide. The failure to continue to patch unpatched computers will also have serious ramifications for society. Hackers will keep scouring Windows XP for flaws, holes, and vulnerabilities for many years after Microsoft ends support for its vaunted operating system. Zero-day vulnerabilities-flaws hackers have long known about but have waited to exploit for fear that the vulnerability will be immediately patched (and could therefore only be used once or for a short time)-will now be exploitable in perpetuity. Experts "have repeatedly warned that April 8 could spark a hacker feeding frenzy." Yet, ironically, those who run Windows XP pose a greater threat to others than to themselves. In the special case of governments, enterprise businesses, and financial institutions, failure to patch or migrate will expose the personal data of millions of individuals to theft, fraud, and abuse. When the wave of security breaches from unpatched machines arrives, the lawsuits against companies for failure to secure user data properly will become even more costly. There may also be immense blows to consumer confidence, leading to welfare-reducing market-wide substitutions away from e-commerce.
Aftermarketfailure: Windows XP's End of Support,
Mich. L. Rev. First Impressions
Available at: http://repository.law.umich.edu/mlr_fi/vol112/iss1/13