Microsoft report details risks of running unsupported software

A new report from Microsoft Corp. reveals the security risk that consumers and businesses face when using unsupported operating systems and software.

The company’s Security Intelligence Report volume 15 found that in the first half of 2013, nearly 17 percent of computers worldwide running up-to-date, real-time security products from Microsoft encountered malware. Although Windows 8 encountered a similar amount of malware as Windows XP, computers running Windows XP were six times more likely to actually be infected with those threats.

“The data help illustrate the positive impact that security innovations in newer operating systems are having. Modern operating systems such as Windows 8 include advanced security technologies that are specifically designed to make it harder, more complex, more expensive and, therefore, less appealing for cybercriminals to exploit vulnerabilities,” said Tim Rains, director of Microsoft Trustworthy Computing.

The report also revealed the top three worldwide threats for those running Windows XP. The first is Sality, a malware family that can steal personal information and lower a PC’s security settings. Second is malware that infects Windows executable files, Microsoft Office files and HTML files. Finally, Vobfus is aamily of worms that can download other malware onto a PC; it can bedownloaded by other malware or spread via removable drives, such as USB flash drives.

Rains said that once security updates for Windows XP stop on April 8, 2014, security risks associated with continuing to use the outdated software will increase as cybercriminals seek to exploit newly discovered vulnerabilities. The last version of Windows XP to go out of support was Service Pack 2. In the two years following, malware infections jumped 66 percent when compared with Windows XP SP3, the version for which support ends next year.

“The importance of upgrading from Windows XP cannot be overstated,” Rains said. “We truly want people to understand the risks of running Windows XP after support ends and to recognize the security benefits of upgrading to a more modern operating system — one that includes the latest in security innovations, provides ongoing support and can in turn better protect them.”