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Unauthorized hack could extend the life of Windows XP

Unauthorized hack could extend the life of Windows XP

Some people just can't give up Windows XP, like these folks, and even the U.S. government. So much so that somebody's figured out a hack that, in the long run, could end up being useless and still expose its users to viruses and worse.

Let me explain.

A hack of Windows XP is making Microsoft's update service deliver patches intended for a very close relative of the old operating system. Instead of cutting off updates for XP, it could end up stretching out service until 2019, potentially.

But it's not clear that a tweaked XP will be protected from cybercriminals.

The operating system that XP is tweaked to receive is called POSReady 2009, which is really used for cash registers and ATMs.

Those patches will still be served to companies and governments that have paid Microsoft for XP support. Some people think, "Heck, this is a great way for me to keep my old XP machine that still works."

Despite the shady ethics of it all, it turns out the tweak looks pretty good - for now.

Jerome Segura, a senior security researcher at Malwarebytes, an anti-malware software vendor, tried out the hack and came away impressed.

"The system is stable, no crashes, no blue screens," Segura said in an interview, talking about the Windows XP virtual machine whose updates he resurrected with the hack. "I saw no warnings or error messages when I applied patches for .Net and Internet Explorer 8."

But Segura pointed out that the patches are really for cash registers and ATMs, not PCs. He's not sure what exploits will be found by hackers, and whether Microsoft will patch them.

Microsoft wasn't pleased, either.

"We recently became aware of a hack that purportedly aims to provide security updates to Windows XP customers," a company spokesperson said in an email. "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."

Don't run the risk of being hacked through a jerry-rigged XP system. Upgrade to a Windows 8 machine now, and Microsoft will give you $100.

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