Microsoft has released its final security updates for Windows
XP and Office 2003 as security experts warned users that they
could soon be prime targets for cyber attacks if they do not
abandon the products.
Security experts advise consumers and businesses to either
replace computers running Windows XP or upgrade to modern
versions of Microsoft's software within the next month
because they will no longer be protected from newly
discovered threats after the middle of May.
Microsoft automatically rolls out new security updates on the
second Tuesday of each month, which is known as "Patch
Tuesday," a day when they also publish technical details on
the security bugs they are fixing. The next Patch Tuesday is
Security experts say they believe hackers will study that
data and "reverse engineer" the May Patch Tuesday software
updates to identify ways to attack computers running Windows
XP, along with Office 2003, which will no longer receive
patches from Microsoft.
"Attackers will use this as an accelerator. It's an easier
way to get at machines," said Wolfgang Kandek, chief
technology officer with cybersecurity firm Qualys Inc.
Microsoft wants users to move to more modern versions of the
operating system partly because it has incorporated new
security features into the software over the past decade that
make it far more effective in thwarting cyber attacks.
The world's largest software maker first warned that it was
planning to end support for Windows XP in 2007, but security
firms estimate that 15 to 25 percent of the world's PCs still
run on the version of the operating system that was released
in October 2001.
Only about a third of the world's 2.2 million ATMs which use
the system have been upgraded to newer operating systems,
according to NCR, one of the biggest ATM makers.