x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Microsoft to end Windows XP security updates

Microsoft will stop providing security updates for the Windows XP operating system, placing 17 per cent of all personal computers in the UAE at higher risk of malware infections.

Microsoft will stop providing security updates for the Windows XP operating system (OS), placing 17 per cent of all personal computers in the UAE at higher risk of malware infections. The company hoping that users will upgrade their OS to either the Windows Vista or Windows 8 platform, and will stop providing support options and updates for XP from next April.

Anti-virus software will be ineffective for Windows XP, according to Tim Rains, the director of Microsoft’s Trustworthy Computing group.

The UAE’s malicious software (malware) infection rate is double the world average at 21 per cent. Pakistan has the highest rate of malware threats in the world, while countries such as Finland and Japan have much lower rates. Japan’s malware infection rate is just 1.4 per cent, according to Trustworthy Computing.

While many might attribute the variance in security threats to culture and language, Mr Rains said that was not the case.

“There are 80 different socio-economic factors that are correlated with threats – from broadband penetration, Facebook usage to demographic instability and regime instability,” he said.

Malware infection rates increased in Egypt during the Arab Spring uprisings and decreased once the interim government announced plans for an election, Mr Rains said.

“In some countries they want identity theft. Attackers do a lot of bank fraud for this, they’re trying to steal people’s identity so they can walk into a bank and steal their money,” he said. “In Egypt, they’re not looking to hijack identity, but to hijack computers for attacks for which they can never get caught.”

Just 60 per cent of computers in the region are protected with antivirus software, lower than the global average of 80 per cent.

Meanwhile, computer attacks are growing more sophisticated. In Europe, cybercriminals are targeting individuals by hacking their computers and taking control in return for a ransom. Such attacks are likely to reach the Arabian Gulf region, according to Mr Rains.

“We don’t see that as a trend here right now, but usually when something is successful in one part of the world, we see it in another part of the world,” he said.

thamid@thenational.ae