Faced with a continuing barrage of crippling ransomware attacks, Microsoft has stepped up to the plate to issue patches for operating systems that it no longer supports.

Normally, Microsoft stands pretty firm about not offering fixes to out of date operating systems. Windows XP has been without security and bug support since April of 2014. The company normally offers security support for 10 years after an OS launches, but they made an exception with XP and extended it to nearly 14 years. Despite a long campaign warning users to upgrade, many people, and more troubling, businesses and government agencies stuck with the unprotected, outdated operating systems. This made them a sitting duck for hackers.

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When Microsoft issued patches for a vulnerability that affected currently supported systems, the crooks simply reverse-engineered those patches to figure out what the issues were. They designed ransomware to attack XP, Vista, and Windows systems that didn’t have the proper security updates. This ransomware nearly crippled the UK’s National Health System.

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While Microsoft says they are primarily concerned about attacks on government organizations, they are making the patches available to all customers.  If you’re using Windows 10 or Windows 8.1, these patches will be included as part of your regular update.  If you’re using XP, Vista, Window 8, or Server 2003, you’ll need to manually download the updates.

Click here to go to the security advisory page.

Then scroll down to find your operating system and click on the link to the needed download.

~ Cynthia