SOFTWARE PATCH FACTORY Microsoft has released a preview of its March Patch Tuesday release, which contains the firm's penultimate security bulletin for Windows XP.
The firm said it will deliver five security updates to users next week in the release, including two rated as "critical", one of which will patch the open vulnerability in Internet Explorer (IE) that hackers have been exploiting since January.
"Priority one should be the two critical bulletins," said security firm Qualys CTO Wolfgang Kandek. "Bulletin one for all versions of Internet Explorer, starting with v6 all the way to v11 and bulletin two for Windows, affecting all Windows OS versions from [Windows] XP to [Windows Server] 2012, with the exception being Windows RT."
Bulletins three and four will address important but not critical vulnerabilities in Windows, and bulletin five will be for users of Silverlight on Mac and Windows.
The Redmond firm rolled out a patch for a Remote Code Execution vulnerability in January for a recent version of Internet Explorer to ensure protection against web based attacks. The critical bulletin in the March Patch Tuesday release updates that January bulletin.
Microsoft plans to retire Windows XP from patch support on 8 April. However, late last year it emerged in a Spiceworks report that almost 80 percent of IT professionals are still running Windows XP on at least one system, raising security concerns as Microsoft counts down to the end of extended support for the obsolescent PC operating system (OS).
In a report entitled "Getting Over Your [Windows] XP", Spiceworks revealed that 76 percent of IT professionals haven't upgraded all of their systems from Windows XP to a later version of Windows yet, and nearly half admitted that they will leave the 2002 Windows XP OS on at least one system past its end of support that is due next month.
Microsoft warned organisations to upgrade their systems in April 2012 when it announced the two year countdown to the end of support for Windows XP and Microsoft Office 2003, saying that "the technology environment has shifted" and that those leaving the migration to the last minute might find it difficult to accomplish in time.
In April, software specialist 1E marked the one year countdown to the end of Windows XP support by reporting that less than a quarter of UK companies had completed the migration of their PC estate to a newer version of Windows, with 40 percent still "in the process of upgrading".
Those that don't upgrade can expect to be faced with the threat of increasing security concerns, as Windows XP continues to be one of the PC operating systems most targeted by malware attacks. µ