Microsoft to stop security updates for Windows XP Service Pack 2

Microsoft will no longer shore up security weaknesses in computers using Windows XP Service Pack 2 and Windows 2000 operating systems, the company has revealed.
The software giant announced Tuesday that it will stop supporting computers using those older operating systems as of July 13th.
Such desktop PCs and servers are still widely used in corporate networks globally. Qualys estimates 50% of Windows XP machines used by businesses are SP2 machines. Qualys manages computer upgrades for over 4,000 corporations, government agencies and large organizations worldwide, as well as small- and medium-sized businesses.
The service packs contain major security and reliability upgrades. "No new security patches for Windows XP SP2 means that users will not get updates to the core operating system and its components," says Qualys CTO Wolfgang Kandek. "The overall effect will be that the machine becomes increasingly susceptible to attacks from malicious software."
Infected PCs in corporate settings are in high demand by cyber gangs who place them in networks, or botnets, of thousands of other infected PCs used to spread spam, steal data, hijack online bank accounts and shut down websites for extortion or political reasons.
Most XP machines in U.S. homes are running with the more recent Service Pack 3. That's because most U.S. consumers enable Windows auto update, the online service Microsoft uses to automatically push out security fixes to consumer PCs.
Microsoft issues security updates on the second Tuesday of each month, known as Patch Tuesday. Corporate users typically install service packs and security patches manually, only after extensive testing, says Jason Miller, data and security team manger at Shavlik Technologies.
"We frequently speak with IT administrators who are running Windows XP SP2 on many machines in their network, and this will affect many businesses across the globe," says Miller. "For a variety of reasons, mainly resources and cost, many businesses still run older versions of operating systems and service packs in their environments."
Microsoft spokeswoman Alison Dwiggins declined to offer an estimate of how many Windows XP SP2 PCs and Windows 2000 servers are used by businesses globally. "As you know, we don't break out the install base," she wrote in an email reply.
Microsoft recommends that its customers buy new Windows 7 PCs. Alternatively, XP SP2 users can install Service Pack 3.


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