Microsoft to Issue Anti-Malware Signatures After Windows XP Support Cutoff

Microsoft is buying Windows XP users a little more time by pledging to offer anti-malware signatures for a year after it ends support for the OS this spring.


Windows XP users can breathe a little sigh of relief after Microsoft ends support for the OS on April 8.

Microsoft will continue to issue anti-malware updates for Windows XP for more than a year after the deadline passes, the software company announced. "To help organizations complete their migrations, Microsoft will continue to provide updates to our anti-malware signatures and engine for Windows XP users through July 14, 2015," said the company in a Jan. 15 Threat Research & Response Blog post.

"For enterprise customers, this applies to System Center Endpoint Protection, Forefront Client Security, Forefront Endpoint Protection and Windows Intune running on Windows XP," according to a statement from the Malware Protection Center staff. On the consumer front, it boils down to Microsoft Security Essentials.

The software giant caused a stir earlier this month when it revealed that it would "stop providing Microsoft Security Essentials for download on Windows XP" on April 8.

Microsoft Security Essentials protects Windows systems against Trojans, rootkits, worms and other malware. The software, the successor to Windows Live OneCare, acts as a free first line of defense for scores of Windows XP, 7 and Vista users. (The Windows 8 counterpart is called Windows Defender).

While XP users will no longer be able to download Microsoft Security Essentials after April 8, it will at least afford the aging OS some protection. However, the company warned that even this lifeline may not be enough to stem a flood of malware that is expected to materialize shortly after XP is deemed officially unsupported.

"Our research shows that the effectiveness of anti-malware solutions on out-of-support operating systems is limited," said Microsoft. "Running a well-protected solution starts with using modern software and hardware designed to help protect against today's threat landscape."

Tim Rains, director of Microsoft Trustworthy Computing, painted a bleak picture for users of Windows XP after April 8. In short, the nearly 12-year-old operating system hails from a simpler era, one that didn't have to contend with today's security threats.

Those threats include "well-funded underground organizations" that often leverage "large-scale malware automation." They are more than nuisances; in fact, they "are motivated by profit or seek to cause real financial or political harm," claimed Rains.

Despite the reprieve, Windows XP will "no longer be a supported operating system" after April 8. Clarifying what that means for Windows XP users, Microsoft said they "will no longer receive new security updates, non-security hotfixes, free or paid assisted support options or online technical content updates from Microsoft."

NetMarketShare's latest desktop OS market data suggests that millions of XP machines will be classified as unsupported after Microsoft pulls support. Windows XP claimed a 28.98 percent share of the market in December, second only to its popular successor, Windows 7, with 47.52 percent.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...