Here's how to protect yourself.
While shopping. The businesses most likely to still be using XP are smaller, independent, mom-and-pops who may be reluctant or simply slow to pay the cost of upgrading. Major retailers, on the other hand, "are all over this," Finizio said. Ask the manager or owner if the store's payment processing system uses XP.
Pay by credit card at businesses that you know or suspect are still using XP, because, if data is stolen, it's easier to resolve unauthorized credit charges and replace a compromised card than it is to repair debit card fraud, which can mess up your underlying checking account and result in penalty fees all over from bounced checks and automatic bill payments.
Some experts advise that you always pay by credit card and never use your debit card at the cash register. We think that's too extreme. Instead, use your debit card as a credit card, which means that you swipe it through the reader without punching in a PIN number. Yes, hackers could still steal your data, clone your debit card, and use it like a credit card, too, to make unauthorized charges—but they won't have your PIN to withdraw cash via an ATM.
At the bank. As of January, 95 percent of ATMs used Windows XP, but banks are in the process of upgrading their cash machines. In the meantime, major banks such as Bank of America, Chase, and Wells Fargo have bought another year of extended support from Microsoft to secure their machines while they upgrade.
Microsoft says the "large majority" of ATMs that are still running Windows XP are without support. "However, ATMs are operated in more highly‐secured environments than most Windows XP computers, so security vulnerabilities are much harder to exploit," Pat Telford, a consultant at Microsoft, told Consumer Reports.
For these reasons, we believe you'll be safe using major-bank ATMs for the next year, especially since the banks are on the hook for fraud, meaning your liability is essentially zero.
At home. Your personal computer is at risk now, too, if its operating system is XP. The only way to ensure security is to stop using it today and upgrade to either Windows 7 or 8.1. But because most older computers can't run 8.1, we recommend buying a new PC, which will have the latest Windows or Apple operating systems pre-installed on them. Use our Computer buying guide to find the best models for your needs and budget.