Microsoft Extends XP Malware Updates One Year

Microsoft softened its hard-line stance on halting support for Windows XP after the April 2014 cutoff date, stating it will provide antimalware signature updates for XP users through July 14, 2015. The move, Microsoft said, is designed to help businesses complete XP migrations.

Microsoft antimalware support is extended to enterprise XP customers running System Center Endpoint Protection, Forefront Client Security, Forefront Endpoint Protection and Windows Intune. XP antimalware support for consumers is extended to users running Microsoft Security Essentials.

Microsoft partners said the move by Microsoft is an acknowledgment that its customers need more time to migrate off of Windows XP. But partners add, extended XP antimalware support offers little security comfort to XP customers after the April shutoff date. According to Net Applications, in December, Microsoft's Windows XP operating system still runs on 29 percent of PCs.

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Michael Goldstein, president and CEO of LAN Infotech, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Microsoft channel partner, said the move may give the 35 percent of his customer base still running XP a false sense of security, giving them a reason to delay migrating off XP.

"I'd be happier if they stuck to their guns with the deadline. In reality, XP users are going to have to move off the OS. Extending antimalware updates only solves a piece of the security puzzle. After April, XP customers were going to be 100 percent vulnerable; now they will be 80 percent exposed to security risks."

After April 8, 2014, Microsoft will no longer provide security updates, nonsecurity hotfixes, free or paid assisted support options and online technical content updates. The only support, Microsoft said, will be antimalware updates.

Leading up to the cutoff date, Microsoft has been stepping up a public campaign to raise awareness with OEMs, channel partners and consumers about the risks of sticking with Windows XP and urging them to upgrade.

"From a public relations standpoint, Microsoft is covering itself. Given how many companies are still running Windows XP, if there was a huge attack on those systems, it would be a public relations disaster," said Michael Gavaghen, vice president of sales at Microsoft partner SL Powers, Boca Raton, Fla.

Gavaghen said for the small percentage of his customers still running XP, Microsoft's extended antimalware updates will not slow down migration to Windows 7 and 8.1.

For some Microsoft partners that aligned their marketing strategy with Microsoft's XP campaign to move off of the soon-to-be-expired OS, the about-face to continue antimalware support is unwelcome.

"This is more mixed messages from Microsoft," said a longtime Microsoft partner that asked not to be identified. "Microsoft tells partners that they want us to sell Office365 and then cut incentives. Now with XP, Microsoft has been pushing us to stress the urgency of migrating off the OS. Now they are giving customers mixed messages saying that they will give customers antimalware updates. It's yet another mixed message by Microsoft."