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By | Neil McAllister 16th January 2014 06:29

Fine! We'll keep updating WinXP's malware sniffer after April, says Microsoft

Venerable, vulnerable version given security software reprieve

Microsoft has capitulated to the legions of users who are still running Windows XP once again, by extending support for its antimalware software for the aging OS into 2015.

In the past, Redmond has warned that it would discontinue support for Microsoft Security Essentials, Forefront Client Security, Forefront Endpoint Protection, System Center Endpoint Protection, and Windows Intune running on Windows XP on the same day that support for the OS itself ends – April 8, 2014.

That would mean that Windows XP users would immediately stop receiving new malware signatures and engine updates on that date, even though Microsoft would still be providing updates for the same software running on Windows Vista and later.

In a blog post on Wednesday, however, Microsoft's Malware Protection Center group said the software giant has decided to give XP users one more reprieve – but not too long a one.

"To help organizations complete their migrations, Microsoft will continue to provide updates to our antimalware signatures and engine for Windows XP users through July 14, 2015," the post explained, which gives customers just 14 more months to upgrade.

XP users shouldn't breathe too easy, though. Those 14 months are expected to be dangerous ones, with hackers descending upon XP's final, never-to-be-patched vulnerabilities like a swarm of identity-thieving locusts. And each new security update that Microsoft releases for Windows Vista or later could potentially become a how-to manual for new exploits, should the same flaws exist in XP.

"Our research shows that the effectiveness of antimalware solutions on out-of-support operating systems is limited," Microsoft's malware mavens write. "Running a well-protected solution starts with using modern software and hardware designed to help protect against today's threat landscape."

Plenty of people have yet to heed that advice, however. Although the New Year saw a surge of upgrades, as we go to push the big, red Publish button on this story, Windows XP is still thought to be running on just under a third of the world's PCs. ®

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