April 8 marked the end of Microsoft's support for Windows XP; an operating system that's still very popular and widely used. Windows XP will no longer be updated, but that doesn't mean it can't be used safely. Here are some things you can do to keep Windows XP secure:
- Install Windows XP's final update.
- Use Windows XP as a "limited user." By default, user accounts in Windows are "administrator," meaning the user can install programs and make system changes. Downgrading the account will prevent programs that may be malicious from getting access to the system.
- Use the Google Chrome browser instead of Internet Explorer. Chrome is free, and far more secure since it's being kept up to date by Google. Mozilla's Firefox is another alternative.
- Make sure all programs are patched and up to date. If you're using an older version of Microsoft Office, make sure the security settings are set high.
- Only download software from original vendors. Don't download programs from a third party download site; make sure it's from the actual source.
- Don't click on links in email. These links may be deceiving, and malicious links could appear to be coming from someone you know.
- Keep antivirus software up to date.
- Connect to the internet through a router. This will act as a hardware firewall, which will protect against attacks.
- Disconnect Windows XP from the internet. If you don't need to be online with your Windows XP computer, then cutting it off from the outside world is highly recommended.
For a complete list of security precautions for using Windows XP, consult page 13 of this document from F-Secure recommended by Steve Gibson.