Business Technology Optimization

PCs Using Outdated Operating Systems are at Risk

Microsoft will officially retire its service and support for the 11 year-old Windows XP on April 8, 2014. From that day onwards, Microsoft will no longer provide automatic fixes, updates, or online technical assistance. This implies that users will no longer receive security updates that help protect their PCs from harmful viruses, spyware, and other malicious software that can steal their personal information.

Vastly different from the latest operating systems such as Windows 7 and Windows 8, Windows XP was not designed to handle the challenges of today, such as the increased exposure to cyber-attacks and demands for increased data privacy. Security is the biggest concern for customers as cyber-attacks are progressively getting more sophisticated, able to quickly nullify outdated security measures and are able to affect the safety of the user’s personal information. Users should be aware of the hidden costs associated with using outdated operating systems that are no longer officially supported, as the potential damages may cost one much more than an upgrade would.

Deploying the latest operating system can help users prevent various virus and malicious software attacks. Industry analysts are all in agreement that now is the time to upgrade from the decade-old software. An analyst from Frost & Sullivan comments that the advancing new technology in mobile computing and the sophistication of network security attacks will test the performance of existing OS when the support ceases. Enterprises will need to consider the functional costs and the vulnerabilities of their PCs if they continue using the existing OS.

In March 2013, according to StatCounter, users with PCs running Windows XP were already at a steady rate of decline since Windows 7 was launched in October 2009. However, approximately 2.2 million PCs are still at risk. According to the findings of Microsoft’s Security Intelligence Report, Volume 14, released in April 2013, the following threats are most prevalent in Hong Kong:

  • The Malicious Software Removal Tool (MSRT) detected malware on 2.2 of every 1,000 computers scanned in Hong Kong in the fourth quarter of 2012, compared to the worldwide average of 6.0
  • The top threat categories in Hong Kong in the fourth quarter of 2012
    • Miscellaneous Potentially Unwanted Software (42.3% of systems infected with malware in the fourth quarter of 2012, up from 34.2% in the third quarter of 2012)
    • Miscellaneous Trojans (29.5% of systems infected with malware in the fourth quarter of 2012, up from 26.9% in the third quarter of 2012)
  • The top 3 threat families in Hong Kong
    • Win32/Keygen (19.5% of systems infected with malware) - A generic detection for tools that generate product keys for various software products
    • JS/IframeRef (6.9% of systems infected with malware) - A generic detection for specially formed IFrame tags that point to remote websites that contain malicious content
    • INF/Autorun (6.8% of systems infected with malware) - A family of worms that spreads by copying itself to the mapped drives of an infected computer. The mapped drives may include networks or removable drives
  • There are 6.23 phishing sites per 1,000 hosts in Hong Kong, up from 6.01 in the third quarter of 2012, which is also higher than the worldwide average of 5.10

The data in Microsoft’s Security Intelligence Report Volume 14 also indicates that the infection rates of Windows 7 and Windows 8 machines are lower than that of Windows XP by an average of 3 times and 20 times respectively. This is crucial for enterprises or SMBs, as they have updated security built in which gives users protection from the latest cyber-threats.

To reduce your exposure from cyber-attacks, users with outdated operating systems should consider upgrading to a newer version with built-in anti-virus software. Users will also be able to benefit from all the new features from the newer operating systems, such as secure mobile access to the internet from laptops and tablets. 


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Joelle Woo

Director, Marketing and Operations (M&O), Microsoft Hong Kong Limited

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