Windows 98 Users Face Increased Security Risk, Says Study

UPDATED: Research paper warns companies running Microsoft Windows 98 that they face an increased risk of a network security breach when Microsoft retires the product at year's end.

A new research paper to be released on Thursday is warning those companies still running Microsoft Windows 98 that they face an increased risk of a network security breach when Microsoft retires the product at the end of this year.

The study, released by Ottawa-based AssetMetrix Research Labs and titled, "Usage Analysis & Risks of Obsolete Operating Systems: Microsoft Windows 95 & Windows 98," points out that while Microsoft Corp. is preparing to retire a number of its flagship products, there are still a large number of PCs in the corporate environment running Windows 98 and Windows 95.

Inventory data of more than 372,000 PCs—from some 670 companies with between 10 and 49,000 employees—found that more than 80 percent of these companies were still using Windows 98 and/or Windows 95.

"On January 16th, 2004, Microsoft Windows 98 enters the non-support portion of its support lifecycle. Windows 98 is considered obsolete, and security-based hot fixes will not be generally available for users of Windows 98 or Windows 98-Second Edition," said Steve OHalloran, managing director of AssetMetrix Research Labs.

With the against Windows and associated applications and with Microsofts increased efforts to patch security exploits via monthly hot fixes, companies with Internet-facing PCs running Windows 95 or Windows 98 will now face an ever-increasing risk of a network security breach, he said.

"As we began to help some of our customers plan to migrate away from Windows 98, we noticed that the number of Windows 98-based PCs was higher than we would have anticipated. Our data also indicated that the major driver is a direct result of delaying PC refreshment purchases during the recent economic slowdown," he said.

The study also found that more than 27 percent of PCs were running Windows 95 or Windows 98, compared to only 7 percent for Windows XP, while Windows NT4, for which mainstream support ended in 2002, is still prevalent in the corporate environment at a rate of over 13 percent.

"Companies with a significant investment in Windows 98—and who did not purchase an extended hot fix support contract this summer—should immediately evaluate strategies to retire all installations of Internet-facing Windows," the study said.

Next page: Hot fixes for all.