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With support for the Windows XP coming to an end, experts warn that computers which continue to use the outmoded operating system may be ripe for takeover by botnet operators, especially in China where XP is still widely used.

StatCounter reported in January that as many as 50.46% of the computers in China still use the XP operating system, due mostly to the high cost of upgrading. Support for XP ends April 8.

“If we’re talking tens of millions of machines that’s a significant pool to do DoS or other malicious attacks,” says vulnerability researcher and Microsoft BlueHat bounty winner James Forshaw. “It might be in everyone’s best interest to get China or other countries to help them to migrate.”

Compounding the problem is the fact that Chinese units running XP are likely already quite vulnerable because they have not been regularly patched against known vulnerabilities because they are probably running pirated versions.

“Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer says 90% of Microsoft software used in China, including Windows XP was pirated. That means the bulk of XP computers in China have never been updated and so are ripe for exploitation,” TechWorld reports.

In the U.S. Windows XP is still quite popular and generally regarded by many as the best version of Windows ever, and approximately 40% of PC users still run desktop versions, along with majority of ATMs, many Point-of-Sale (POS) systems, many systems within our critical infrastructure environments.

Fortunately, most of government and large corporations have already upgraded to newer operating systems or are using embedded XP, which Microsoft has committed to supporting for a while longer.

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