Microsoft reportedly held back WannaCry patch for older Windows versions – CNET

Why the WannaCry cyberattack is so bad, and so avoidable

A new wave of the ransomware spreads chaos around the world. Paying the ransom may not cure computers, which could have avoided infection by simply keeping Windows updated.

by Bridget Carey

Microsoft could have helped made sure ransomware WannaCry wasn’t so widely spread.

The software giant had reportedly held back a free update that would have fixed the exploit the ransomware used to machines running Windows XP, as it wanted hefty fees of up to $1,000 per machine for “custom” support, according to the Financial Times. While Microsoft had given governments users special deals in the first year, high costs had led organisations such as the badly hit UK’s National Health Service to drop support.

Microsoft continues to struggles to figure out just how to provide support for its older software, even as it tries to convince customers to switch to its newer and more secure Windows 10. Despite discontinuing support to its older Windows versions, plenty of its customers are still running older software that may be vulnerable to exploits resulting in last week’s WannaCry attacks.

While Microsoft finally did make the patch available free of charge to Windows XP machines last Friday, damage had already been done. While initial WannaCry attacks did get slowed down by a security professional who figured out the ransomeware’s killswitch, newer versions that lack the killswitch are already starting to show up.

“Recognizing that for a variety of business reasons, companies sometimes choose not to upgrade even after 10 or 15 years, Microsoft offers custom support agreements as a stopgap measure,” said a Microsoft spokesperson in a statement to CNET.

“To be clear, Microsoft would prefer that companies upgrade and realize the full benefits of the latest version rather than choose custom support. Security experts agree that the best protection is to be on a modern, up-to-date system that incorporates the latest defense-in-depth innovations. Older systems, even if fully up-to-date, simply lack the latest protections.”

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