Microsoft has officially announced to end the support of Windows XP operating system on 8th April. Future operating system flaws, vulnerabilities and application weaknesses will not be fixed and supported by Microsoft.
According to Internet research, 20-30% of world wide users are still using Windows XP and have no plans to migrate to Windows 7 and Windows 8 operating system. Cybercriminal and hackers are sure to launch malware and zero day attacks on Windows XP users. If you are using Windows XP operating system, here are top tips to protect your system against malware and advanced cyber attacks.
1. Apply latest Windows XP Updates:
Make sure latest patches and windows updates are installed on your machine. To do this, go to your Start menu, select All Programs, then Windows Update. Select Check for Updates and install everything that Microsoft flags as "Important." Under Change Settings, set Windows Update to Install Updates Automatically.
2. Install Antivirus / Antimalware:
Make sure you install an antivirus / antimalware on your Windows machine. Also change the antivirus settings to receive automatic updates and schedule regular scans on your computer. You can either purchase a licensed antivirus / antimalware for better protection or download the free ones’ such as Malwarebytes, Clam AV and Avast from the Internet.
3. Create separate user accounts:
Create separate user accounts in your Windows machine: administrator account and limited user account without any admin privileges. Use the administrator account to install / remove software programs and make any changes to computer settings. Use the limited user account to access and use the software programs, applications and data residing on your computer.
4. Install Microsoft Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET):
The Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET) is designed to help prevent hackers from gaining access to your system. The toolkit uses several pseudo mitigation technologies aimed at disrupting current exploit techniques. You can download the toolkit from Microsoft’s Download Center.
5. Enable Data Execution Prevention:
Harmful programs, malware can try to attack Windows OS by attempting to run (also known as execute) code from system memory locations reserved for Windows and other authorized programs. Data Execution Prevention (DEP) is a security feature that protects your computer by monitoring your programs to make sure that they use system memory safely. If DEP notices a program using memory incorrectly, it closes the program and notifies you.
To enable DEP, go to Control Panel, select System, then the Advanced tab. In the Performance section of the resulting pop-up window, click the Settings button. In the next pop-up, select the Data Execution Prevention tab. Select "Turn on DEP for all programs and services except for those I select." Hit Apply, then OK and then restart the computer.
6. Turn On Windows firewall:
A firewall can help prevent malicious software (such as worms) from gaining access to your computer through a network or the Internet. A firewall can also help stop your computer from sending malicious software to other computers.
To enable Windows firewall, go into Control Panel, select Windows Firewall, select "Turn Windows Firewall on or off," then select "Turn on Windows Firewall" for all options.
7. Disable automatic opening of files in USB:
It is easy to spread malware using a USB stick, especially in Windows XP which can open files as soon as the USB stick is plugged in. Disable automatic opening of files in USB stick and run an antivirus/antimalware scan.
You can disable automatic opening of files by using the Group Policy editor. From the Start menu, select Run, type in "gpedit.msc," and hit OK or the return key.
You'll see a pop-up window with two panes: in the left-hand pane, select Administrative Templates under Computer Configuration (NOT User Configuration). Then, in the right-hand pane, double-click System.
Scroll down to Turn Off Autoplay and double-click it. Another pop-up window will appear; under Turn Off Autoplay, select the Enabled radio button, select All Drives in the "Turn off Autoplay on" menu and close the window.