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5/1/2014
04:53 PM
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Microsoft: Windows XP Update An 'Exception'

XP users shouldn't expect additional support from Microsoft, despite its heroic last-minute security update for Internet Explorer.

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Many Windows XP users are no doubt relieved that Microsoft decided to include Windows XP in a security update for a recently-disclosed bug -- but they shouldn't assume support will continue. Microsoft said XP remains an unsupported product, and that it made an exception to include it in this update only because the issue arose so near the operating system's end-of-life deadline.

Microsoft began deploying the update around 1 p.m. EST on Thursday. Users who have enabled automatic updates shouldn't need to take any action. Otherwise, users can access the update via the Control Panel's Windows Update section. Microsoft rarely releases out-of-cycle updates like this one. Most arrive during the company's monthly Patch Tuesday releases.

[Is XP really at risk? Read Windows XP Security Issues: Fact vs. Fiction.]

After disclosing the bug last weekend, Microsoft suggested a number of workarounds, many of which were inapplicable to XP machines. In a blog post, Microsoft Trustworthy Computing GM Adrienne Hall encouraged XP users to upgrade.

Image: Nick Perla (Flickr)
Image: Nick Perla (Flickr)

She wrote that today's cyberthreats are too sophisticated for an operating system first released over a decade ago. Microsoft officials have repeated this message countless times in recent months, but many users remain unpersuaded; over a quarter of PC users still relied on XP in April, according to web-tracking firm Net Applications.

Attacks against XP are already ongoing, according to FireEye, the security firm that took credit for discovering the vulnerability and gave it its nickname, "Operation Clandestine Fox."

In a Thursday blog post, the firm said it has detected a "version of the attack that specifically targets out-of-life Windows XP machines running IE 8." FireEye said earlier attacks involved only IE 9, 10, and 11 on Windows 7 and 8. The bug affects all versions of IE from 6 to 11. The firm warned that the new method that involves XP "means the risk factors of this vulnerability are now even higher."

FireEye said it initially observed attacks against the defense and financial sectors but has since detected campaigns against government and energy institutions as well.

Microsoft will host a webcast Friday at 2:00 p.m. EST to discuss the security update in greater detail.

Could the growing movement toward open-source hardware rewrite the rules for computer and networking hardware the way Linux, Apache, and Android have for software? Also in the Open Source Hardware issue of InformationWeek: Mark Hurd explains his "once-in-a-career opportunity" at Oracle.

Michael Endler joined InformationWeek as an associate editor in 2012. He previously worked in talent representation in the entertainment industry, as a freelance copywriter and photojournalist, and as a teacher. Michael earned a BA in English from Stanford University in 2005 ... View Full Bio

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ebyjeeby
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ebyjeeby,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/5/2014 | 4:50:26 PM
Re: It's the fault of the hardware makers
what computer will last 50 years? my wife's laptops die for one reason or another every 3-5 years. And nobody is stopping users from installing a "non-disposable" OS, whatever one of those is. My desktop is about 8 years old, but I don't expect it to last 50 years!  
SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
5/5/2014 | 8:28:11 AM
Re: Remind me again why Internet Explorer, itself, has anything to do with the Windows XP OS?
I'm seeing OSX users who are much more up to speed on the latest release of the OS and they will actually take the time to read about key changes and they upgrade fairly quickly.  They are not any more sophisticated than Windows users yet they aren't sitting there ignoring a year old patch notification or warnings that OS support is going to end.   Just my opinion but I do think that the price of a Windows OS upgrade and the nightmares that some of them have been created this mindset.  If I sat in a big office at Microsoft this would be one of the first things I would address. Windows has a bit of an image problem and fixing that now should be a priority before the mobile OSes start to cut into the corporate desktop world.
PaulS681
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PaulS681,
User Rank: Ninja
5/4/2014 | 7:44:31 PM
MS wavering?

Hmmm Is MS wavering on their decision to end support for XP? They are leaving the door open with this "exception". There will be more threats that exploit XP so I think we will find out quickly.

TeaPartyCitizen
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TeaPartyCitizen,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/4/2014 | 9:24:49 AM
It's the fault of the hardware makers
I blame the hardware makers for selling us these disposable Microsoft operating systems. Why tie a computer which can last 50 years to an OS which is no good after only 7 ??? This makes no sense. Hardware vendors should sell us Linux, Chrome OS or Android or anything else other than Microsoft Windows because Microsoft stops supporting their OSes way before the hardware wares out. What is worse is that when we upgrade, we have to buy NEW hardware because Windows 7 will not run on an XP machine. Why can I not have my computer for the life of it? Why does Microsoft do this to their customers?
Li Tan
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Li Tan,
User Rank: Ninja
5/3/2014 | 10:04:25 PM
Re: A good reason to fix this bug...
I will keep my finger crossed and watch. MS delivered very clear message that Windows XP is EOL and this security patch is just an exception. But I think the real force resides in end-user community. If the end-user don't want to do upgrade or they start to merge to Linux or Mac, I don't think MS will be so strict on the policy - I am anticipating similar exceptions to be made in the near future. The real EOL of such an important OS cannot be simply claimed by just an announcement.
moonwatcher
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moonwatcher,
User Rank: Strategist
5/3/2014 | 12:53:05 PM
Re: A good reason to fix this bug...
Exactly, With up to 27% of all Internet connected PCs still running XP, they represent a potent force for malware to be used in Denial of Service attacks and other forms of bad mischief. Now that the users have seen Microsoft "blink", it is not unreasonable for them to think that Microsoft will CONTINUE to blink regarding serious holes in XP, not just Internet Explorer. In doing this, while mitigating the risk those PCs pose to the Internet, they might have sent exactly the WRONG message to the installed Windows XP user base. 

I'd like to see some Microsoft marketing genius on TV simply stating the obvious: That they recommend all Windows XP users to switch to Google Chrome, replace XP with Ubuntu, buy an Android or Apple iPad tablet to use instead, or hey, go buy a Mac. 

I'm not holding my breath...LOL.
moonwatcher
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moonwatcher,
User Rank: Strategist
5/3/2014 | 12:41:44 PM
Re: Remind me again why Internet Explorer, itself, has anything to do with the Windows XP OS?
SaneIT, You ask if Linux users would stick with a 13 year old O/S. Well, no, we don't have to. The upgrades are FREE, and backwardly compatible with all old hardware, so nothing breaks. (And the installs are painless overlays, not that hatchet job upgrading Windows can be). You can't say the same thing about upgrading from XP to 7 and definitely not from XP to 8.1.1 (many perfectly good PCs built in the circa 2006 time frame running Core 2 Duo processors will run Windows 7 just fine as long as they have enough RAM, but because Windows 8 requires a motherboard chip set supporting a security feature called DEP, for Data Execution Prevention, - which most motherboards of that time period do not support - it simply won't run). 

Microsoft should have either waited until the market share of Windows XP got below 8% to 10% before pulling the plug. It wouldn't have been that big of a deal then similar to when they pulled the plug on Windows 98 and Vista. 

Either that or as I have said many times before, they should have make Windows 7 Home Preimum (32-bit and 64-bit) available for a cheap price for those still running XP. Many would have done it for say $20 to $49, but they aren't going to pay $100 for a forced upgrade on a 6 to 8 year old PC. 

I have a Windows 8.1.1 box for running Solidworks, but I still use my XP box daily for iTunes, email, and streaming music. I'm dual booting it with Ubuntu Linux, and can use Ubuntu for Facebook and other more risky sites. It just works and is now so easy to set up and get all the necessary codecs for playing music and videos. You no longer need to be a command line geek to make it work. I would think that a big chunk of those 27% still running XP could switch to Ubuntu full time and be just fine. Unfortunately, iTunes doesn't run well on Ubuntu, even using Wine, so that is the main reason I stick with XP, until I break down and move my library to the Windows 8.1.1 box. 

BTW, I switched to Google Chrome on the XP box a LONG time ago. 
jagibbons
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jagibbons,
User Rank: Ninja
5/2/2014 | 4:14:20 PM
Re: Remind me again why Internet Explorer, itself, has anything to do with the Windows XP OS?
Good points about the the non-geek users of the various OSs who just want it to work. While most of the flavors of OS X have been fairly seamless, there have been hardware jumps at certain stages. In addition to the time investment and perceived risk of applications not working, I think the hardware jump is a factor. I know a lot of what I'd call "average" computer users running XP because their old computers won't run Windows 7 or newer. There's a driver issue with one or more hardware components. Not everyone can afford or chooses to shell out dollars for a new computer every couple of years. For these folks, the PC is a tool, or a means, to get work done, not a end in an of itself.
TerryB
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TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
5/2/2014 | 1:36:09 PM
Re: Remind me again why Internet Explorer, itself, has anything to do with the Windows XP OS?
Outstanding answer to @saneIT. I might add that who, at least in Windows world, really cares about the o/s itself?  The o/s is an ends to a means, enables the real reasons you use a computer in first place. No one in history of computers ever bought one for the joys of logging on, saving a file and launching applications a certain way.

i/OS users are not much different than Win users, it's all about the apps with them also. Unix/Linux users, well that's a whole different breed. They love playing with that system stuff. That's one group that probably upgrades regularly just for the fun of it.  :-)
Number 6
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Number 6,
User Rank: Moderator
5/2/2014 | 12:53:55 PM
Re: Remind me again why Internet Explorer, itself, has anything to do with the Windows XP OS?
Reasons why Windows XP users don't upgrade: (1) Cost, as you suggested, in dollars.  (2) Cost in time.  (3) Complexity - Does this pass the "Can my mom do this?" test?  Believe it or not, most PC users are NOT IT professionals and, particularly at home, don't have access to them.  (4) Risk of something not working afterwards.  If everything (seems) to be fine now, why would a user willingly spend time and money to do an upgrade that potentially will break their e-mail, games, or some other app (or hardware interface) that they really depend on?

When a PC OS upgrade is as easy as a phone app upgrade, then you'll see it happening.

 
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