Windows XP Infection Rate To Rise by Two-Thirds in April
By Jennifer LeClaire / CIO Today. Updated November 01, 2013.
Microsoft wants you to upgrade to Windows 8.1, and the company offered a scary incentive to get you to take the leap. Redmond is reporting that the chance malware will infect your Windows XP-based PC after April 8 could rise by two-thirds.
The news comes as part of a Microsoft Security Intelligence Report that provides threat intelligence and analysis of cyber threats in more than 100 countries and regions worldwide. Among other things, the report highlights the risk of unsupported software.
During the first half of 2013, currently supported versions of Windows desktop operating systems -- Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8 -- all had roughly similar malware encounter rates of between 12 percent and 20 percent. But, Microsoft reports, Windows XP systems had an infection rate that was six times higher than Windows 8.
Why the Exponential Risk?
“Microsoft Windows XP was released almost 12 years ago, which is an eternity in technology terms,” said Tim Rains, director of Trustworthy Computing at Microsoft. “While we are proud of Windows XP’s success in serving the needs of so many people for more than a decade, inevitably there is a tipping point where dated software and hardware can no longer defend against modern day threats and increasingly sophisticated cybercriminals.”
Since the launch of Windows XP, Rains said, the number of people using the Internet has grown from 360 million to more than 2.4 billion. The world has witnessed the rise of the Internet citizen with members of society connected through e-mail, instant messaging, video calling, social networking and a host of Web-based and device-centric applications.
“As the Internet becomes more and more woven into the fabric of society, it has also become an increasingly popular destination for malicious activity,” Rains said. “In 1991, there were about 1,000 forms of malware or threats known to exist. Today, that number is in the millions.”
Security Pros Agree: Upgrade
On April 8, 2014, support will end for Windows XP. This means Windows XP users will no longer receive security updates, non-security hotfixes or free or paid assisted support options and online technical content updates. After end of support, Rains said, attackers will have an advantage over defenders who continue to run Windows XP.
According to NetApplications, Windows XP still has a significant desktop market share. In fact, it has more market share than Windows 8. NetApplications reports Windows XP has 31.4 percent share. That compares to 46.4 percent for Windows 7, 8.9 percent for Windows 8 and 4 percent for Windows Vista.
We caught up with Ken Pickering, director of engineering at audit, penetration testing, and security software firm CORE Security, to get his reaction to the news. He told us he agrees with Microsoft about upgrading from Windows XP by the deadline.
“Don’t use a legacy OS if you can absolutely avoid it. And, if you positively need to, make sure you protect and monitor it as closely as possible,” he said. “If you can upgrade to Windows 7 or Windows 8, do so ASAP because it will have a ton of malware still targeted at it.”