Microsoft has tried and tried, but it just can’t get away from Windows XP. In a way, Microsoft should be happy that it released an operating system so popular that it’s still running on millions of PCs more than 15 years after it was released. Microsoft sure isn’t happy that it still has to support XP, though. The company has just released another patch for the aged OS, more than three years after ending support. It turns out unpatched Windows XP is a target of state-sponsored hackers.
Microsoft began pulling back on Windows XP support in 2012, but it wasn’t until 2014 that security patches were halted. The company still offers custom XP support for organizations that need to keep running the OS and are willing to pay for it. These custom patches won’t add new features or technologies to XP, but they keep the platform from being a hacker’s playground. This month, Microsoft is rolling out a patch developed for custom support agreements on Windows XP and Vista, as well as all newer versions of the OS.
As part of Microsoft’s usual round of patches yesterday, it released some of these patches developed for custom support agreements. The update addresses critical vulnerabilities Microsoft believes are connected to state-sponsored cyberattacks. However, Microsoft isn’t saying who disclosed this vulnerability or exactly what it was. Past emergency patches were related to the leak of NSA tools by online hackers, but even then Microsoft didn’t specify what it was fixing. It’s entirely possible this is once again related to leaked NSA exploits.
This is not the first time Microsoft has had to go back and update Windows XP. Just last month it rolled out a patch for XP that protected users from the WannaCry ransomware. Microsoft says all Windows systems with automatic updates enabled will get the patch soon. Anyone still running an XP box might have updates turned off seeing as there weren’t supposed to be any. They can be manually installed via the Download Center or in Windows Update.
The June security bulletin does note that the new XP patch should not be construed as a resumption of support. Microsoft simply decided this threat was serious enough that it had to act. Anyone using XP is still strongly urged to run something more modern, but any PC from the XP era would likely be pushed to its limit by any Windows version that is still supported. Computers with Windows 8.1 and 10 are already protected from the vulnerabilities by automatic updates.
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