It's no secret that Microsoft is mothballing Windows XP early next year. Officially dubbed the end of "extended support," the retirement means that security updates will no longer be available. Naturally, this means that systems running XP will become increasingly insecure, as new vulnerabilities (or those that have been held in reserve by attackers) become available on the black market. It may seem easy to dismiss this concern out of hand if you've already migrated your workstations to later versions of Windows. But, in practice, the implications of the retirement extend far beyond the workstation.

Thanks to its stability and relatively light resource use, Windows XP has been the OS of choice for specialized systems for more than a decade now. POS systems, medical devices, inventory systems, and a plethora of other turnkey devices have been built around XP. The most security-conscious vendors will surely have a plan to address the retirement of the venerable OS. History tells us, though, that many vendors will ignore the problem, leaving their customers with devices -- potentially used for critical business or patient care functions -- that are completely exposed to new exploits.

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