UK Government Shells Out £5.5m for Extended XP Support

News Article - Tuesday, 08 April 2014 14:30

By: Kerry Butters Category: Security

Support for Microsoft OS XP ends today, but despite having plenty of warning, many UK government machines will continue to run the software.

This has led to the government paying for a one year extension at a cost of £5.5 million, the Guardian reports . The cost will cover support for XP, Office 2003 and Exchange 2003 for all of the public sector, giving extra time for it to upgrade to later versions of the software.

"We have made an agreement with the Crown Commercial Service to provide eligible UK public-sector organisations with the ability to download security updates to Windows XP, Office 2003 and Exchange 2003 for one year until 8 April 2015,” said a Microsoft spokesperson.

It’s thought that as of September last year, in the NHS alone, around 85% of all the computers used were still running the operating system. It’s thought that plans to migrate to later versions have already been made and will take place over the course of the next 12 months.

Whilst support ends today, users will be able to install a final security patch which will fix numerous vulnerabilities, one of which is critical and has already been "actively exploited” since its discovery in March . The bug affected Microsoft Word and allowed a remote attacker to take complete control of a system once an RTF file was executed.

Security advisors are warning that every vulnerability could now be considered a "zero-day” vulnerability as there will no longer be patches issued to ensure that the gaps are filled. In an interview with the BBC , Maik Morgenstern and Andreas Marx of the German AV-Test group warned that "XP users topped the list of victims cyber-thieves targeted”.

"Malware writers go for the low hanging fruits because it's a lot easier to infect systems running on an old Windows XP operating system compared to brand-new Windows 8.1, with all its built-in security features," they said.

"We think we will see a lot of attacks for Windows XP within the next few months, but attackers will also always add exploits for other Windows systems just to catch those systems as well."

Many users have hung onto XP due to a reluctance to upgrade to Windows 8, an operating system that has spelled trouble from day one for Microsoft. Whilst it has recently sold 200m licenses  for its newest OS, Microsoft are rumoured to be bringing out Windows 9 as early as spring next year.

It was announced at this year’s BUILD conference that the company are to add the start button and allow users to run apps from the desktop in upcoming versions of 8.1.

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