By Jared Davison – Chief Information Officer, Medical-Objects Pty Ltd

Let’s think about DNA in living beings. A large percentage of DNA is the same between all humans, while just a small percentage of DNA is different which make us all unique.

Software code is the “DNA” of computer systems.

Within the Windows operating system versions, most of the code is the same from one version to the next. Most code changes between versions are cosmetic or peripheral, or new features.

Unlike our DNA which we have little control over, software systems can change themselves via update processes. Software vendors such as Microsoft use these update processes to help strengthen the system against criminals who would try to exploit its weaknesses. We can contrast this against software antivirus systems which function more like our immune systems in combating an active exploitation attempt or invasion.

So what does this all have to do with upgrading from Windows XP?

Well, Microsoft will continue to solve security issues in newer Windows versions and release them regularly via their automatic update system in Windows, but not for Windows XP any more.

Criminal hackers will analyse the code changes in these updates knowing that although it strengthens an updated Windows system against a particular type of attack, it exposes a fault and security loop hole in non-updated systems. Therefore, the hacker can figure out how to exploit the weakness of a system which has not received its updates.

Since the DNA of Windows is the largely the same throughout the versions from a decade ago until now, it is quite probable that a hacker can figure out how they can exploit the Windows XP systems which can no longer receive the equivalent updates which Windows 8,7, Vista receive to strengthen them.

Our customer’s businesses are all about caring for their patients, and being responsible to provide privacy of their patient’s medical records and to be able to access them as required to provide their the health services. A high dependency is placed on IT systems to aid in the provision of the health service.

A large number of our customer sites are running Windows XP which has served medical practices quite reliably for over a decade. Unfortunately because Microsoft have discontinued their support of Windows XP, these practices risk to expose their patient’s medical records if their practice is chosen as a target for exploit by criminals.

Ransoms have also been known to have been requested from medical practices to “unlock” patient data after a security flaw was exploited.

Windows Updates have been critical in maintaining medical practice computer’s safety against virus and criminal attacks, and this should be maintained if the computer is connected to the Internet.

In order to continue receiving updates to protect your practice, we recommend consulting your IT service to provide a newer Windows version which will continue to receive updates.

Upgrading Windows might be a fraction of the cost compared with recovery and damages costs to a medical practice if it was exploited by a criminal in the future.

Running a new version of Windows will often require new computer hardware as Windows has become more complex over the last decade and it has been designed to utilise current hardware technologies.

Consider how long you might want to use the new computer. If you have used Windows XP for 10 years, consider how long you might use the new version of Windows. Remember that Microsoft will stop supporting Windows Vista  in the next few years and then 7 after that. Using the current release operating will give you the longest period of security updates, to have trouble free operations for years to come.

Microsoft stopped supporting Windows XP on 8th April 2014. The current Windows version is 8.1.

We wish you a smooth upgrade, and we will be happy to assist you in reinstalling our software on your practice’s new operating system.

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