The end of Windows XP support could mean trouble for businesses, schools, and individuals who are still working with the system.

Microsoft ended support for the persistently popular Windows XP on Tuesday, and the move could put everything from the operations of heavy industry to the identities of everyday people in danger.

An estimated 30 percent of computers being used by businesses and consumers around the world are still running the 12-year-old operating system.

“What once was considered low-hanging fruit by hackers now has a big neon bull’s eye on it,” says Patrick Thomas, a security consultant at the San Jose, Calif.-based firm Neohapsis.

Microsoft has released a handful of Windows operating systems since 2001, but XP’s popularity and the durability of the computers it was installed on kept it around longer than expected. Analysts say that if a PC is more than five years old, chances are it’s running XP.

End of Windows XP Support

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While users can still run XP after Tuesday, Microsoft says it will no longer provide security updates, issue fixes to non-security related problems or offer online technical content updates. The company is discontinuing XP to focus on maintaining its newer operating systems, the core programs that run personal computers.

Officials at both Richard Stockton College and Atlantic Cape Community College said they still have some computers that use Windows XP, but have been in the process of upgrading them.

Robert R. Heinrich, director of Academic Computing and IT Support Services at Stockton, said more than 75 percent of all computers have been upgraded to Windows 7. He said the college has perimeter security screening and local anti-virus and firewall protection on all workstations.

Atlantic Cape Community College has upgraded the majority of the 1,300 computers on all three campuses, spokeswoman Stacey Clapp said. She said computer labs used by students are done. Those units remaining are typically in offices.

Most public schools have been upgrading their clasroom technology in preparation for computer-based state PARCC tests next year. According to the PARCC technology requirements, Windows XP meets only the minimum requirements and will likely not be compatible for the tests beyond 2015-16. Windows 7 and above are recommended.

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End of Windows XP Support

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