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Microsoft warns... run unsupported software at your peril

31 Oct 2013

Microsoft has warned companies of the security risk that consumers and businesses face when using unsupported operating systems and software in a new cybersecurity report from Redmond this week.

Looking at the implications of using Windows XP once support ends on April 8, 2014, the software giant compared the security of modern operating systems such as Windows 8 with older operating systems such as Windows XP.

According to StatCounter, older systems such as Windows XP make up approximately 21 percent of operating systems used today.

The report found the top three worldwide threats for those running Windows XP:

• Sality - Malware family that can steal personal information and lower a PC’s security settings.

• Ramnit - Malware that infects Windows executable files, Microsoft Office files and HTML files.

• Vobfus - Family of worms that can download other malware onto a PC; it can be downloaded by other malware or spread via removable drives, such as USB flash drives.

Microsoft also claimed that in the first half of 2013, nearly 17 percent of computers worldwide running up-to-date, real-time security products from Microsoft encountered malware.

Although Windows 8 encountered a similar amount of malware as Windows XP, computers running Windows XP were six times more likely to actually be infected with those threats.

“The data help illustrate the positive impact that security innovations in newer operating systems are having," said Tim Rains, director, Microsoft Trustworthy Computing.

"Modern operating systems such as Windows 8 include advanced security technologies that are specifically designed to make it harder, more complex, more expensive and, therefore, less appealing for cybercriminals to exploit vulnerabilities."

Rains added that once security updates for Windows XP stop, security risks associated with continuing to use the outdated software will increase as cybercriminals seek to exploit newly discovered vulnerabilities.

The last version of Windows XP to go out of support was Service Pack 2. In the two years following, malware infections jumped 66 percent when compared with Windows XP SP3, the version for which support ends next year.

“The importance of upgrading from Windows XP cannot be overstated,” Rains added.

“We truly want people to understand the risks of running Windows XP after support ends and to recognize the security benefits of upgrading to a more modern operating system — one that includes the latest in security innovations, provides ongoing support and can in turn better protect them.”

See the full presentation here.