MICROSOFT'S ERSTWHILE operating system Windows XP has received a new lease on life, courtesy of the hacking community.
By altering a single line of code in the registry, a system running Windows XP can be fooled into believing that it is a till or a cash machine running Windows Embedded Industry, the version designed for point-of-sale (POS) systems that will be supported until 2019.
Microsoft has been forced to continue support of embedded Windows XP for a further five years, as so many systems including most of the cash machine networks around the world still depend on it.
This also means that plugging the exploit would cripple every single one of them, putting Microsoft in a rather embarrassing postition. Windows XP reached end of life on 8 April, although Microsoft relented and released a zero-day exploit patch for the system shortly afterwards. It has, however, since made it clear that the patch was a one-off.
In a statement to Zdnet, Microsoft warned against editing the Windows XP registry, saying, "We recently became aware of a hack that purportedly aims to provide security updates to Windows XP customers.
"The security updates that could be installed are intended for Windows Embedded and Windows Server 2003 customers and do not fully protect Windows XP customers. Windows XP customers also run a significant risk of functionality issues with their machines if they install these updates, as they are not tested against Windows XP.
"The best way for Windows XP customers to protect their systems is to upgrade to a more modern operating system, like Windows 7 or Windows 8.1."
The percentage of users of Windows XP at end of life stood at nearly 25 percent and dropped only slightly during April.
When The INQUIRER polled readers on their future plans after Windows XP end of life, more respondents said they would switch to Linux based operating systems or risk maintaining Windows XP than upgrade to the latest version, the much maligned Windows 8.
At present the most popular operating system is Windows 7 with almost half of the market, followed by Windows XP, then Windows 8, which despite a recent major update still has only a quarter of the total number of users of Windows 7.
Governments around the world have resisted upgrading, with the UK government paying £5.5m for an extra year of support, however it appears that teaching employees how to run a batch file could realise instant savings for the treasury. µ