Woes Set to Worsen for Windows XP Users
Ashley Allen / 1 week ago
Windows XP, Microsoft’s 15-year-old operating system, fell victim to massive ransomware attack during the last week. Services across Europe were hit, including the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), which shut down hospitals and clinics around the country. The outdated XP, which Microsoft ended its support for in 2014, is still a prominent operating system across the globe. According to NetMarketShare, XP still has a 9.11% market share, which makes it the third-most-popular OS in the world.
Microsoft issued an emergency Windows XP patch to protect against the WannaCry ransomware, but industry analysts warn that this attack is just the start. If you’re still using XP on an Internet-connected machine, the risks are about to get worse.
Vista is Partly to Blame
When Windows XP was released in 2001, it was considered the first stable version of Microsoft’s operating system. The OS became a key component of internal business IT networks and synonymous with home PCs.
“It was one of the first Microsoft operating systems people latched onto,” Peter Tsai, IT analyst at Spiceworks, told Wired.
Microsoft released a successor to XP, Windows Vista, in 2007. Microsoft expected Vista to build on the success of XP, but the software was a failure. Performance and compatibility issues meant that users became reluctant to upgrade and new users opted for the OS that worked. Businesses that did upgrade to Vista lived to regret it. Their hands burnt, many reverted back to XP and stuck with it, some until the present day. It became cheaper and less, in theory, to stick with the system that worked. Vista’s broken legacy is still in effect.
“A lot of smaller companies subscribe to the theory, probably wrongly now, that if it’s not broken then don’t fix it,” Tsai explained. “Especially companies that aren’t prioritising IT.”
What Can XP Users Expect Next?
The WannaCry ransomware was born out of the NSA hacking tools leaked by the Shadow Brokers last year. WannaCry is just the first. Expect more, and expect them soon. Microsoft has patched one vulnerability, but there are countless more ripe for exploitation. If the Redmond company responds to them all, it could find itself in a desperate game of Whac-a-Mole. Just because Microsoft patched XP this time, though, doesn’t mean it will again.
“It can give users a false sense of security and does not motivate them to upgrade to systems whose security architecture is superior and can be improved on,” Jérôme Segura, lead malware intelligence analyst at Malwarebytes, warned.
Even WannaCry itself is evolving:
— Matthieu Suiche (@msuiche) May 14, 2017
If you can, ditch Windows XP now. Just over that hill, there’s a storm brewing.