What Every Agent Should Know About Windows XP

Most insurance agents aren't computer experts, and that's okay, but in case you haven't seen the recent announcements, there are some important updates that agents need to be aware of. As of April 8, 2014, Microsoft will no longer be providing support or security updates for Windows, Internet Explorer, or Office 2003. You will need to take action in the near future.

Windows XP

What's the issue?

Since the software is no longer supported by the manufacturer, your system becomes increasingly vulnerable to hackers and criminals. They develop malware that can attempt to steal your sensitive data, such as passwords or credit card numbers.

Let's say you have copies of customer apps stored on your PC, and they contain social security numbers, voided checks, birth dates, signatures, or other private information. What if a clever hacker were able to gain access to those files? Identity theft is a very real problem, and your clients wouldn't be very pleased if your outdated system was to blame.

Windows XP

Windows XP is old - it was released in 2001 and sold through 2008. Chances are that if you have it installed, then your computer is fairly old as well. Because of that, you probably can't even upgrade to a new operating system, such as Windows 7 or Windows 8, as these systems require more robust hardware. If you aren't ready to buy a new computer now, you should plan on doing so in the near future. You'll get a faster machine, and a more secure one too.

First things first - it's time to install all those security patches you've been ignoring over the last several months or years. Run Windows Update today. Schedule some time at the end of the day, start the updates, and let them run. It may take a while, but these are the last updated you'll get from Microsoft.

When you see updates from Adobe (for Acrobat or Flash) and Oracle (for Java) be sure to allow those to run as well.

Internet Explorer

Windows XP

If you are using Windows XP still, then most likely you get on the internet using Internet Explorer version 8 (or maybe version 7). While newer computers can run the latest, which is Internet Explorer 11, you can't install that on Windows XP. Using the outdated IE8 will leave you vulnerable to viruses and malware. Your best bet for now, is to use Google Chrome. It's a modern browser and is much more secure.

Office 2003

Microsoft Office usually includes Outlook, Word, Excel, Powerpoint at least. This software may account for what you use the most, so it's wise to keep it up to date in order to continue getting security updates. Opening an Word document infected with a Macro virus may be all it takes to mess up your system. If you plan to stay on Windows XP, you might consider upgrading to Office 2007 or 2010, if your system will support it. If you don't need the actual Microsoft products, but just want a relatively close replacement, you might consider trying out the free OpenOffice.

Checklist

  • Schedule some time at the end of the day
  • Run Windows Updates
  • Update 3rd-party software (Adobe, Java, etc.)
  • Switch from using Internet Explorer to Google Chrome
  • Upgrade Office 2003 (or switch to alternative)
  • Upgrade or replace computer

Final Thoughts

Most likely, nothing bad will happen right away, and maybe not at all - but you should be aware of the situation and make an educated decision on whether to stick with old software, or if it's worth the peace-of-mind to update or replace your computer. If you'd like some more specific information on the subject, read The end of XP support: The complete guide for stayers and switchers.

If you have questions, ask them below, and I'll do my best to provide answers.


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