Vista Infection Rate Climbs

Thursday, May 24, 2012 @ 02:05 PM gHale

More exploits on Windows Vista is the result of the end of support for the operating system’s first service pack, Microsoft officials said.

Data from the company’s newest security intelligence report show in the second half of 2011, Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1) was 17% more likely to suffer infection by malware than Windows XP SP3, the final upgrade to the nearly-11-year-old operating system.

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That’s counter to the usual trend, which holds that newer editions of Windows are more secure, and thus exploited at a lower rate, than older versions like XP. Some editions of Windows 7, for example, boast an infection rate half that of XP.

Tim Rains, the director of Microsoft’s Trustworthy Computing group, attributed the rise of successful attacks on Vista SP1 to the edition’s retirement from security support.

“This means that Windows Vista SP1-based systems no longer automatically receive security updates and helps explain why there [was] a sudden and sharp increase in the malware infection rate on that specific platform,” Rains said.

Microsoft stopped delivering patches for Vista SP1 in July 2011. For the bulk of the reporting period, then, Vista SP1 users did not receive fixes to flaws, including some later exploited by criminals.

Vista SP2 will continue on a patch plan until mid-April 2017.

Rains also noted the infection rates of Windows XP SP3 and Vista dropped dramatically last year after Microsoft automatically pushed a “backport” update which disabled AutoRun, a Windows feature that major worms, including Conficker and Stuxnet, abused to infect millions of machines.

It seems disabling AutoRun had more impact on XP than on Vista. While XP’s infection rate continued to drop throughout the year, Vista SP2’s climbed from the second quarter to the third, and again from the third to the fourth.

Windows 7’s infection rate also increased each quarter of 2011.

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