A new study has yielded additional insights to the threat posed by unpatched Windows XP machines, and how they could act as a staging area for spreading malware onto other systems.
The conclusion was based on data released by antivirus vendor Avast Software, whose examination of some 630,000 rootkit samples finding that 74 percent of them originate from XP machines. In contrast, a mere 12 percent of rootkit malware was found to come from Windows 7 PCs.
Rootkits are considered to be a particularly virulent form of malware as they actively attempt to hide their presence from antivirus software by subverting standard operating system functionality.
As reported on Computerworld, Windows XP machines currently account for about 58 percent of all Windows-based system in use while Windows 7 makes up 31 percent of all Windows PCs. Even accounting for the lower penetration of the Windows 7 OS, it is clear that Windows XP machines have garnered a disproportionately high percentage of rootkit infections.
One possible explanation given by Avast is how many users could be running pirated version of Windows XP SP2. As such, they may be hesitant to upgrade to the still-supported (in terms of security updates) SP3 for fear of triggering anti-piracy measures. Moreover, Windows 7 is also known to incorporate superior security over the almost decade-old Windows XP OS.