Friday, June 13, 2014

IC Projects: XP Replacement

Though the majority of our students use Macs, many of the staff and faculty members still use Windows machines.  Until recently, many of those machines were using the Windows XP operating system. However, many XP machines here at SU have been recently replaced because of an ongoing project by the Help Desk to rid the campus of these machines.

I sat down with Charlotte Hernandez Velez, the IC Help Desk Supervisor, to explain exactly what the nature of this project is so that you, the SU user, can be informed about why the XP machines are vanishing from SU's campus.

Q: Can you tell me about the IC Help Desk project about collecting XP machines?
A: On April 8, 2014, Microsoft said it would stop supporting the Windows XP operating system. Basically, what that means is that if you have a XP computer, you will no longer be able to receive new updates. That is bad because updates are what keep the computer secure.  Vulnerabilities that are found all the time, are patched, and then that patch is added to an update.  Once you update, your computer is secure from those vulnerabilities that were patched. If your operating system cannot be updated, you can have the best Virus scanning software in the world, but you're essentially surfing the internet naked to these vulnerabilities because people who would exploit them know about them, and they know many people will still be using these systems without the ability to update themselves to safety. That is why we need to remove those computers!  If one vulnerable computer is on our network, our entire network could, potentially, be adversely affected. At this point, almost all of the XP machines have been collected from campus. A few remain, but those machines have been completely disconnected from the network, so they are just standalone machines without the ability to access the network.

Q: How many XP machines have you collected thus far?
A: At this point, we've collected between 150 and 200 machines, but I don't have the exact number in my head. I could find out for you though!

Q: How long did the collection of all those XP machines take?
A: We've been working hard on this project for about 4 months now.  We're talking multiple machines a day.

Q: Why not re-purpose these machines and put a new operating system on them?
A: Actually, we re-purposed as many machines as we could.  Some of the machines that had XP actually got Windows 7 installed on them, but most of the machines did not meet the minimum requirements for Windows 7 installation because of their age and system specifications. The computers that could not install Windows 7 successfully, essentially, reached their end of life here at SU, and have been replaced.

Q: Who is primarily affected by the XP machine collection?
A: Mostly staff and faculty. We didn't realize how many people did not want to make the Mac switch.  At first, we thought that everybody would want a Mac, but there has been some resistance. Despite the Macs that we provided many of the staff and faculty members have the capability to bootcamp (have a separate Windows 7 partition on their Macbook so they can run both operating systems), or they can access and use virtual box which allows you to run Windows within the Mac operating system.

Q: If you could briefly summarize this project how would you?
A: Security matters.  We cannot accept having vulnerable XP machines associated with our network.  Our next frontier will be trying to get all the Mac 10.6 users to upgrade their operating systems because 10.6 will no longer be supported soon.

XP's time at SU has come and gone.  The IC Help Desk is the vanguard for IC on this project, and they've stepped up in a big way to keep our network and users safe from those who would exploit vulnerabilities which will no longer be updated within Windows XP

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