MICROSOFT HAS killed off the last vestiges of anti-malware for Windows XP.
In a move that most people assumed had already happened, the company withdrew support today for the Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool.
Windows XP reached end-of-life status in April 2014, since when security patches have not been provided.
Windows XP still accounts for just shy of 12 percent of the global desktop operating system market, according to monthly figures from Netmarketshare. This is half what it was a year ago, but XP is still the third most-used operating system in the world.
There's no specific evidence to suggest that there is a link to the end of life of Windows Server 2003, which falls today, but rather that a decision was taken last year to extend support for XP users owing to the continuing widespread use of the platform at the time.
Andra Zaharia, marketing and communication specialist at enterprise antivirus company Heimdal Security, pointed out that, while there may be no connection, there are still major effects for companies.
"System Centre Endpoint Protection, Forefront Client Security, Forefront Endpoint Protection and Windows Intune run on Windows XP clients as well, so companies should pay special attention to securing these products and their environment," she said.
"We strongly recommend that organisations make sure that they do not include active installations of these products in their network."
A Freedom of Information request earlier this year revealed that the Metropolitan Police still has 36,640 XP-powered terminals, stemming partly from there being no clear responsibility for upgrading.
Microsoft warned in January 2014: "Our research shows that the effectiveness of anti-malware solutions on out-of-support operating systems is limited. Running a well-protected solution starts with using modern software and hardware designed to help protect against today’s threat landscape."
The Malicious Software Removal Tool has, as Microsoft makes clear, never been an alternative to proper malware protection, but does get rid of the particularly virulent strains.
Without this extra layer, XP will become even more prone to attack as hackers reverse engineer patches for other versions of the operating system and apply them to Windows XP. µ
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