Is Your Mum Safe?

Throughout my last year at Microsoft, I’ve been working with my communication and marketing colleagues on a big milestone – XP End of Service. It’s impossible to work in the IT industry and not know about this date – it’s a big priority – and we can certainly expect the momentum (and noise) to ramp up in the coming weeks as D-Day fast approaches – 8th April 2014! case you didn’t know, all operating systems have an end-of-service (here are Microsoft’s) because what is possible today just can’t support what is possible tomorrow. Let’s face it, all of the brilliant things we enjoy about technology right now were almost inconceivable when XP was first invented more than a decade ago.

As such, this end-date is a critical milestone, because those remaining on XP after the cut-off are exposing themselves to very high risks – security breaches, hacks, bots, etc…. However, a more compelling reason for me is quite simple: those still on XP are not even close to experiencing all of the wonderful things technology delivers today.

XP is a 12 year old operating system (OS), and while one of the most popular OS’s in Microsoft’s history, today it can only deliver a sub-standard experience. When people upgrade a whole new world opens up to them – something I’ve seen firsthand, with reactions varying from relief to almost wonder – when they migrate to Windows 7/8. When people upgrade they understand for the first time what is really possible.

Recently, I was brainstorming some ideas with my colleagues, trying to clarify which industries remain at high risk and what we could do about it. Top of the pops are financial services, healthcare, telcos, insurance and retail. However, what really caught my imagination was this number:

There are currently 20 million individuals in Asia still on Windows XP. Yes, 20 million – that’s almost the population of Australia!

(If you’re interested, there are more than 230 million users on XP in Asia, including China. Take China out of the picture and it’s down to close to 60 million. Minus India it’s more than 40 million. These numbers include businesses and can be found at Statcounter. However, it is the individuals that caught my attention. The one’s who probably don’t even know.)

So I start thinking – who are those individuals? Where are they?

And then it occurred to me that my Mum is probably one of them.

The problem is my Mum wouldn’t know XP if you smacked her in the head with it. She knows as much about technology as a new born babe, and while not everyone of her generation is as technology illiterate (although both of my parents seem to be), I’m thinking the message to the Mums (and Dads) of the world may not be getting through?

So how do we get the message to them?

Well from where I’m sitting, it’s simple – we go over to our Mum’s house and check out her computer.

But wait I hear you asking: why is it important that my Mum knows about this? Why can’t she just keep on using an old operating system in peace? She’s really happy with it right now – why rock that boat?

Here’s one possible scenario of why this could become an important issue to take seriously. Let’s say your dear old Mum has her bank details on her PC and it gets hacked and someone takes her life savings. She calls the bank expecting everything to be resolved. However, the banks have decided to approach these situations differently, and the first thing they do is send in forensic teams to analyze her computer. “What!” exclaims your Mum, “that’s not how it’s supposed to work?”

To be honest, I think this is fair enough – we should be 100 percent responsible for our personal data, because it’s our personal data after all. And it seems the banks are switching onto this and asking: “have you taken the most stringent steps you can take to protect your information before we agree to reimburse you for any losses?”

To my knowledge, the banks have focused on making sure your security software is effective. However, perhaps if you’re still on XP after April 8th 2014 that will be enough to make your claim invalid? It’s certainly possible.

Never heard of a bank taking these steps? Neither had I until recently. A friend in Australia was hacked and she had to give the bank her computer for forensic analysis. Her security was up-to-date and she was OK. But will my Mum be?

I’m obviously not speaking for the banks here, nor am I suggesting they will definitely do this, but things are starting to move in that direction – with personal responsibility for our data lying squarely with us. As such, I believe it is a potential threat and something we shouldn’t expose our Mums to. It’s also why your Mum needs to understand that this IS an important issue for her.

Yes she probably won’t enjoy learning a whole new operating system – who does? – but this is the safest route for her (and all of us) to go. We’ve got to make sure we’re secure digitally.

In the meantime, you’ve got a month to go until XP is no longer supported. The big industry players (mentioned above) that are still on XP have got enough money and resources to keep their IT infrastructure safe. Your Mum hasn’t.

So get on over to your Mum’s house, make sure she’s up-to-date with her technology, try and find the patience to teach her how to use a new operating system (or pay for her to go back to school if you don’t have that patience), and don’t forget to take a nice bunch of flowers to make her day. When your Mum’s safe and happy, it’s good for everyone.

In the meantime, I found this video of how Microsoft thinks technology will look in 2019 – you certainly won’t get to enjoy any of this stuff if you’re still on XP.

Please do share this with your Mum if you think she’ll value it and if you’ve got any thoughts on the risk to individuals still on XP, I’d love to hear it?



PS: what’s this got to do with communication? Everything. Technology is the core tool of the communication professional today – making sure you’re using the latest and greatest (as well as the most secure) is critical for success.

Some additional links

As many of us know, it’s not just individuals at risk today, it is also small to medium business (SMB) owners. I found it startling to learn that more than 70 percent of SMBs in Asia employ between 1-4 people – many of whom remain at risk with XP.

Microsoft and its partners are offering great incentives to this community – as is the high street outlets for individual consumers (like Mums) – but here are some handy links across the region, especially if you want more insight of what XP End of Service really means to you and your business. These links are specifically for SMBs in Asia Pacific.

The overall Windows XP site is here

Then by country in Asia Pacific – not including China or India.

New Zealand
Sri Lanka

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