Security Advisor

Antivirus Maker Blasts Microsoft for Ending Windows XP Support

Avast said that once April 8 rolls around, a quarter of its users will be left vulnerable to higher risk of attack.

With less than three weeks to go until Microsoft officially stops supporting Windows XP on April 8, free antivirus maker Avast is criticizing the move, saying that too many will be left unprotected after that date.

In a blog posted to its site this week, Avast said that almost a quarter of its users are still on Windows XP and will be six times as susceptible to attack compared to Windows 7 users.

"Abandoning Windows XP is a big mistake, especially since Microsoft has not been very successful in transitioning XP users to newer systems," wrote Ondrej Vlcek, chief operations officer at Avast Software. "The Avast database shows that 23.6% of its more than 200 million users is still running Windows XP."

Avast points to the loss of support for XP will potentially lead to a higher number of data-loss incidents like the one Target faced late last year and would also "be an easy target for hackers and be seen as a gateway to infect other non-XP operating systems.

This threat also stretches to ATMs, which 95 percent are still running Windows XP, according to vast. However, it's unclear how many of the 95 percent are running the standard OS version or Windows XP Embedded, which Microsoft will continue to support until 2016.  

Even though XP Embedded machines have a stay of execution for a couple of years, the 200,000 XP-based ATMS in the U.S. -- some on  XP Embedded, some not -- have become a big headache for financial institutions.

"This isn't a Y2K thing, where we're expecting the financial system to shut down. But it's fairly serious," said Kurtis Johnson, an ATM expert with manufacturer Triton, to CNN.  

To avoid the high costs associated with hardware and software replacement for the 200,000 machines, many financial institutions, including JPMorgan, which operates Chase banks, have struck a deal with Microsoft for custom extended support for an additional year, according to CNN.  

Desktop users can also pay to have custom support extended for XP, either through Microsoft or third-party security vendors. For users of Avast's free antivirus software, its service for XP machines won't end on April 9.

"AVAST is devoted to protecting the PC ecosystem by not only supporting Windows XP for at least the next three years, but also by creating protection modules and detections specifically designed to cover Windows XP vulnerabilities and other security problems," wrote Vlcek.

About the Author

Chris Paoli is the site producer for Redmondmag.com and MCPmag.com.

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