This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse this site you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Find out more.X

Microsoft: Upgrade from Windows XP or risk infinite 'zero-days'

Share this article:

Microsoft is intensifying its efforts to get users to scrap Windows XP, the 12-year-old operating system for which the software giant is ending support next April.


Tim Rains, director of Microsoft Trustworthy Computing, authored a blog post last week reminding customers of the perils that could await them should they continue running XP, which debuted in 2001, once Redmond stops patching the platform. Users should upgrade to Windows 7 or 8.


"There is a sense of urgency because after April 8 [2014], Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) customers will no longer receive new security updates, non-security hotfixes, free or paid assisted support options or online technical content updates," Rains wrote. "This means that any new vulnerabilities discovered in Windows XP after its 'end of life' will not be addressed by new security updates from Microsoft."


Rains said that when a vulnerability is patched in one of Microsoft's supported operating system versions, attackers typically reverse engineer the fix in the hope of creating an exploit that could target users who failed to apply the update.


When Microsoft ends support for XP, it will be likely that such a vulnerability would affect even outdated Windows versions, and without any possibility for a patch, attackers will essentially have free reign on XP endpoints.


"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," Rains wrote.


In addition, customers should not rely on the hope that anti-exploit functionality will prevent a successful attack, he said.


"The challenge here is that you'll never know, with any confidence, if the trusted computing base of the system can actually be trusted because attackers will be armed with public knowledge of zero-day exploits in Windows XP that could enable them to compromise the system and possibly run the code of their choice," Rains wrote.


So what's holding up the migrations?


According to a study conducted in April by VMware, 64 per cent of enterprise-size companies still haven't migrated off XP. The same goes for 52 per cent of mid-size firms and 61 per cent of SMBs.


"Common challenges such as end-user downtime, data loss, migration failures and effort to upgrade remote employees can all be avoided if you plan ahead," wrote Sarah Semple, VMware's director of product marketing, in a blog post.

In addition, cost is an impediment. Gartner has estimated that, based on a 10,000-PC environment, the expense of migration is between £769 and £1,275 per machine. 

Share this article:

SC webcasts on demand

This is how to secure data in the cloud

Exclusive video webcast & Q&A sponsored by Vormetric

As enterprises look to take advantage of the cloud, they need to understand the importance of safeguarding their confidential and sensitive data in cloud environments. With the appropriate security safeguards, such as fine-grained access policies, a move to the cloud is as, or more, secure than an on-premise data storage.

View the webcast here to find out more

More in News

Password recovery made too easy

Password recovery made too easy

A senior malware analyst has slammed the availability of a `password recovery' utility from Freehostia, noting that the software actually uses network admin utilities to take credentials from the users' ...

Belgacom says alleged GCHQ APT attack cost firm £12 million

Belgacom says alleged GCHQ APT attack cost firm ...

One year on from a nation-state APT which infected 26,000 machines across 124 systems at telecom operator Belgacom and the firm has detailed the cost and manpower involved in the ...

CryptoWall compromises 40,000 UK citizens

CryptoWall compromises 40,000 UK citizens

Research just published claims to show that ransomware - in the shape of CryptoWall - is still generating healthy volumes of income for the cyber-criminals behind the code.