Hundreds of millions of users vulnerable now Security Essentials support on Windows XP ends

Microsoft is no longer updating Security Essentials on Windows XP.  More than a year ago Microsoft stopped supporting Windows XP, meaning potential security leaks were no longer patched. However, Microsoft’s free antivirus product Security Essentials continued to receive updates. The software giant decided to support the antivirus software for a while to support users and companies when switching to a new operating system.

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Support for the antivirus software ended yesterday meaning Security Essentials no longer receives updates, including new signatures to detect new malware. Also support for the Malicious Software Removal Tool (MSRT) has been ceased. This tool is part of Windows and can be used to remove malware. MSRT is monthly updated with new definitions in order to be able to detect and remove the most common malware. Starting yesterday also this tool no longer receives updates.

The move will make XP users more vulnerable to malware attacks, according to security company Heimdal Security. Security Essentials is the most popular virusscanner, according to research.

Windows XP still has a market share of about 10%. Andra Zaharia of Heimdal Security argues that this means hundred of millions of users are now vulnerable to malware attacks. She therefore urgently recommends XP users to upgrade to a supported operating system. When that’s not possible she recommends to use a virusscanner that continues to receive updates on Windows XP.

Another option is to change a registry setting which tricks Windows XP into thinking it’s Windows XP POS which still receives updates.