Windows XP might lose antivirus updates for Security Essentials after April 2014

OS steps into limbo

Microsoft might stop updating Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) antivirus software on systems running Windows XP after next April's support cut-off, the company has suggested.

So far this is little more than a statement sent to a news website that enquired about the issue and not official policy, but the idea is clearly being mulled by Microsoft.

"Microsoft will not guarantee updates of our antimalware signature and engine after the XP end of support date of April 8, 2014," a Microsoft spokesperson told ZDNet blogger, Larry Seltzer.

"Running antivirus on out of support operating systems is not an adequate solution to help protect against threats. Running a well-protected solution starts with using modern software and hardware designed to help protect against today's threat landscape," it continued.

"In addition, Microsoft recommends best practices to protect your PC such as: 1) running up to date antivirus, 2) regularly applying security updates for all software installed, and 3) using modern software that has advanced security technologies and is supported with regular security updates."

The remark about "modern software" chimes with last week's RSA Europe presentation on Microsoft's latest Security Intelligence Report (SIR) that drew attention to the higher malware infection rates of XP systems compared to later versions of the OS.

SIR showed that XP encountered a third more malware than Windows 8 but was infected at five times the rate, a gap that underlined its vulnerability. The message is pretty clear; as far as Microsoft is concerned, XP no longer qualifies as secure by today's demanding standards.

The small irony is if it does withdraw MSE updates, Microsoft will be making the OS less secure until users source an alternative. Or is it simply being a responsible vendor? For the time being at least, XP users will have plenty of other antivirus clients to choose from.

One small piece of good news is that Google plans to continue supporting its 32-bit Chrome browser on XP until at least April 2015.

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