Businesses and home users of Microsoft’s XP operating system should discontinue its usage or risk exposure to a flood of security vulnerabilities, warned a security expert.
The warning from Help AG, a leading information security services and solutions provider in the Middle East, precedes Microsoft’s discontinuation of support for its XP operating system from April 8.
The OS currently has a 400 per cent greater risk of malware infection than Windows 8.1 owing to improvements that have been added with each iteration and this percentage is only set to rise when the software giant ceases to release critical security patches for the OS, said Help AG.
It maintains a strong penetration of the worldwide OS market, with more than 29 per cent share, according to netmarketshare.com.
Nicolai Solling, director of technology services at Help AG, said: “XP users need to understand that after the end of support, there will be no official way to fix any OS vulnerabilities. Not only this, antivirus vendors too will reduce or even completely abandon their efforts to update their solutions for this operating system leading to a scenario wherein new developments in the field of AV technology will completely bypass Windows XP.”
There is a strong belief within the IT security community that hackers across the globe are already compiling lists of zero-day vulnerabilities on XP which they will only release after the end of support, he said.
“With no fixes available, this list will only grow making usage of the OS a horribly poor decision from a security perspective.”
“With Windows 8, Microsoft introduced a much more aggressive release cycle, meaning new versions are available very six to nine months. From a security standpoint this is a good thing as architectural fixes to software are made more frequently than before,” said Solling.
The security firm has also expressed concern that once Windows XP goes out of support, a large number of point-of-sales systems in the region will be at a greater risk of attack and infection.
Currently about 60 per cent of the world’s POS systems run Window XP Embedded. While this OS will still be supported by Microsoft, the reduced user field owning to the lack of support for the broader XP OS, would mean less security research being devoted to the platform, said Solling.
“A lot of the security fixes for Windows XP Embedded were received through the general update cycles for Windows XP. This is why, with XP going out of support, a large number of components vital to the Middle East’s payment industry will now be significantly less secure than before,” he added.
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