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Microsoft highlights security issues to get users to ditch XP for Windows 8.1

Microsoft would really appreciate it if you would please ditch Windows XP once and for all.

At RSA Europe in Amsterdam, Mike Reavey, general manager of the Redmond firm's Trustworthy Computing Group, released a report that delves into the security implications of running an outdated operating system, among other things.

"The report is timely as we are nearly five months from the end of support deadline for Windows XP. After more than 12 years of support, April 8, 2014 marks the day Microsoft will no longer provide security updates, non-security hot fixes or technical support for Windows XP," Stella Chernyak, a director at Microsoft, wrote in a blog post.

In that report, Microsoft found that the infection rate for Windows XP was significantly higher than those for Vista and Windows 7. XP, for example had an infection rate of 9.1 while Vista came in at 5.5 and Windows 7 landed at 4.9. The newest OS, Windows 8.1, was at 1.6.

"Newer operating system versions are not vulnerable to several common exploits that are widely used against older versions, and include a number of security features and mitigations that older versions of Windows lack," the report found.

Not surprisingly, Microsoft suggests you rectify this by upgrading to its newest OS, Windows 8.1 - at home and at the office.

"The release of Windows 8.1 earlier this month represents a significant milestone for our business customers with great security enhancements, including remote business data removal, improved biometrics support, pervasive device encryption, improved Internet Explorer, malware resistance and device lockdown," Chernyak wrote.

"These features, coupled with new devices that build security into the hardware itself, help ensure and maintain device integrity (UEFI - Secure Boot) and data protection (TPM - Encryption), providing business customers with an added layer of security not available on the older hardware."

In 2002, Microsoft launched its Support Lifecycle policy, allowing 10 years of combined mainstream and extended support for Microsoft Business and Developer products, including Windows operating systems. To that end, Windows XP SP3 and Office 2003 will lose that support on 8 April 2014. The company gave users a one-year warning in April, pointing out that it takes an average company 18-32 months to reach full deployment of a new OS.

According to September 2013 stats from Net Applications, however, approximately 31.42 per cent of global Internet users are still using Windows XP. As a result, Google said earlier this month that it will support Chrome on Windows XP until April 2015.