Feeds

Microsoft warns of post-April zero day hack bonanza on Windows XP

Beginning April 2014, patches will bring new threats

Intelligent flash storage arrays

Microsoft has a Windows XP problem: people still like it and aren't willing to upgrade just yet. So it's warning users that if they don’t upgrade soon, hackers will lie in wait each new Patch Tuesday to reverse-engineer a full set of new vulnerabilities.

"The very first month that Microsoft releases security updates for supported versions of Windows, attackers will reverse engineer those updates, find the vulnerabilities and test Windows XP to see if it shares those vulnerabilities," said Tim Rains, Microsoft's director of trustworthy computing, in a blog post.

"If it does, attackers will attempt to develop exploit code that can take advantage of those vulnerabilities on Windows XP. Since a security update will never become available for Windows XP to address these vulnerabilities, Windows XP will essentially have a 'zero day' vulnerability forever."

He points out that from July 2012 through July 2013, Windows XP received 45 patches, 30 of which were relevant to Windows 7 and 8 as well, and there is considerable flaw cross-over found among the three operating systems. XP is also by far the most malware-infected operating systems, he points out.

Windows XP virus infection rates

Open season on XP from malware

Hackers have learned to get around XP systems like Data Execution Prevention (DEP), Rains warned, although it has forced attackers to up their game somewhat. The threat landscape has also changed significantly since the last service pack for XP came out in 2008 – five years is a very long time in the malware industry, after all.

Windows XP, despite being 12 years old, is still Microsoft's second most popular operating system with 37.2 per cent of desktops compared to 44.5 per cent for Windows 7. Don't ask about Windows 8 – that has only just overtaken the much-reviled Vista.

Despite the ending of free XP security updates on April 8 of next year, Rains says he still meets businesses that run XP on some systems and plan to continue doing so until the hardware fails. According to recent data, 15 per cent of IT managers running XP don't even realize support is ending, and they are going to have to shell out for premium support for security holes.

But it now looks certain that a large percentage of XP users still won't be upgrading any time soon. Certainly if you're running an enterprise XP system, you may have postponed an upgrade for too long to ensure an orderly transition – although resellers will be happy to help.

At last year's Worldwide Partners Conference, Microsoft described the upgrade market for Windows XP as a $12bn opportunity for the channel. Based on current usage stats, resellers have a long way to go before realizing that kind of cash. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Microsoft to bake Skype into IE, without plugins
Redmond thinks the Object Real-Time Communications API for WebRTC is ready to roll
Mozilla: Spidermonkey ATE Apple's JavaScriptCore, THRASHED Google V8
Moz man claims the win on rivals' own benchmarks
Microsoft promises Windows 10 will mean two-factor auth for all
Sneak peek at security features Redmond's baking into new OS
FTDI yanks chip-bricking driver from Windows Update, vows to fight on
Next driver to battle fake chips with 'non-invasive' methods
DEATH by PowerPoint: Microsoft warns of 0-day attack hidden in slides
Might put out patch in update, might chuck it out sooner
Ubuntu 14.10 tries pulling a Steve Ballmer on cloudy offerings
Oi, Windows, centOS and openSUSE – behave, we're all friends here
Apple's OS X Yosemite slurps UNSAVED docs into iCloud
Docs, email contacts... shhhlooop, up it goes
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
How to simplify SSL certificate management
Simple steps to take control of SSL certificates across the enterprise, and recommendations centralizing certificate management throughout their lifecycle.