Microsoft Is About To Leave One-Third Of All Computers Vulnerable To Hacking

Microsoft Is About To Leave One-Third Of All Computers Vulnerable To Hacking: Hundreds of millions of computers running everything from ATMs to the power grid will be vulnerable to hacking next month when Microsoft stops supporting its old Windows XP operating system.

Hackers have been holding onto flaws in Windows XP and waiting to exploit them until after the software giant stops issuing security updates on April 8, experts say.

Adam Meyers, vice president of intelligence at Crowdstrike, a cybersecurity firm, said it was “fairly dangerous” to continue using the 12-year-old operating system because after the deadline “victims can’t defend themselves.”

“I certainly wouldn’t run Windows XP after the 8th,” Meyers said in an interview.

Microsoft announced six years ago it will no longer provide security patches or technical support for the out-of-date software. Yet about one-third of computers around the world — or about 500 million PCs — still run Windows XP.

On Microsoft’s website, a clock ticks down to next month’s Windows deadline and a note warns customers that after April 8, not even anti-virus software will protect PCs that run the obsolete operating system.

“Without critical Windows XP security updates, your PC may become vulnerable to harmful viruses, spyware, and other malicious software which can steal or damage your business data and information,” the site says.

In a statement, a Microsoft spokesman said consumers should upgrade to Windows 7 or Windows 8.1, which costs $120 to install. The company will continue to update anti-malware products for Windows XP users through July 14, 2015. “We realize there are some who are still completing the migration process,” the spokesman said.

A wide range of institutions will face increased security risks next month because they still run the old software.

For example, hundreds of thousands of federal government computers still operate Windows XP, including many PCs that contain classified military and diplomatic information, according to The Washington Post.

About half of the estimated 4,000 electric utilities in North America also still use computers with the outdated Windows software, according to Patrick C. Miller, founder of the nonprofit Energy Sector Security Consortium.

Miller said many utilities still run Windows XP because it costs millions of dollars and takes years to upgrade all of their computers to newer software. To pay for the upgrade, utilities must ask state commissions to increase rates on consumers, and some of them have been denied, he said.