Windows XP at risk as antivirus vendors jump ship

Virus Bulletin VB100 report, focused on fully updated Windows XP systems, shows antivirus manufacturers are giving short shrift to XP, despite its popularity

If you owned an antivirus company with tight deadlines and limited resources, would you (a) put more effort into a wildly successful old operating system that really needs help, or (b) shift resources to work on an unpopular new operating system that ships with an adequate, built-in, and free, antivirus package?

Looks like the answer's (b), for reasons that escape me.

Virus Bulletin has just published a review (subscription required) of the 40 most popular antivirus products, pitting Windows XP Pro SP3 against a menagerie of infectious malware. An astounding 11 of the tested products didn't earn VB's presitigious VB100 Award, which is given to AV products with 100 percent detection of known in-the-wild viruses, with zero false positives.

The full VB tests go beyond WildList scans and false-positive detection to examine how well the AV products detect viruses that appear shortly after the AV files have been frozen. These RAP (Reactive and Proactive) tests don't affect the VB100 Award status, but they do provide some insight into how well the AV products handle newly discovered malware.

Taking into account both the standard WildList and false positive tests, and the RAP test results, Virus Bulletin analyst John Hawes puts it this way:

[T]here does appear to be a trend among vendors towards decreasing support for the XP platform -- with a lot of products extensively redesigned for Windows 8. In some cases it seems that only minimal effort has gone into ensuring full backward compatibility, with a large number of problems noted -- both minor issues with interfaces not displaying very well or proving difficult to operate, and more serious ones with detection and protection not running very dependably.

When measuring product stability in the XP environment, many AV manufacturers were found wanting, "with only a handful of products earning the top rating of 'Solid', quite a few in the mediocre 'Fair' category, and some faring even worse," Hawes said.

All in all, the results bring into question AV manufacturers' commitment to supporting Windows XP. With Microsoft support going away in April 2014, and XP still accounting for more than 40 percent of all Windows Internet usage, heaven knows XP owners will need some protection for a long time to come.

A list of the VB100 Award winners is on the VB100 Test Results page.

This story, "Windows XP at risk as antivirus vendors jump ship," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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