Farewell to XP, hello to charge of the hack attacks?

On the same day Microsoft releases a much-requested update for Windows 8.1, it will also cease support for Windows XP.

Today's shut-down might not affect you and may even cause an audible "meh" when mentioned, but is a far bigger deal than many consumers will imagine. For example, it is said that 85 per cent of NHS computers in the UK still run on Windows XP.

They, and thousands of computers around the globe, will still operate okay, but the lack of any further upgrades or updates means that they could be open for exploitation by hackers. If a security hole is discovered it will not be fixed or patched and that is cause for concern by many businesses worldwide.

Almost 95 per cent of the world's cash machines also run on Windows XP, which has prompted major banks to pay Microsoft for additional support while they switch their systems to later versions of Windows.

And the UK government is paying £5.5 million to Microsoft to continue to provide regular support for the public sector machines in the country for the next year.

Other firms, though, don't have that luxury. So among them, infections, claim security analysts, could run rife.

"Our data indicates that less than one fifth of our customers run Windows XP but more than a quarter of infections are Windows XP-based," said Kaspersky's Dave Emm.

"Effectively, every vulnerability discovered after 8 April will become a zero-day vulnerability - that is, one for which there is not and never will be, a patch."

It's not all doom and gloom though. Pocket-lint's own website developer, Jake Spencer, is less worried.

"I don't think it will lead to serious hacks for the most part, the people that are really exposed will hopefully have locked things down," he said.

"What I do think will happen is it will be open season for things such as advertising boards that are powered by XP. If these devices are on open networks it is very possible they will be exploited for fun more than anything."

So as a consumer, you are more than likely not going to be the target of hackers. You are still advised to upgrade however, even invest in a new PC. It's the advertising board owners that need worry that the country's highways don't suddenly get decorated with pictures of male genitalia.

To find out more, check out Microsoft's dedicated webpage at windows.microsoft.com.