Microsoft leaves old OS users out in cold

Microsoft has decided not to fix a security flaw that could leave PCs running Windows 98 or Windows ME open to hackers, because it claims the patch required could cause other software applications not to work. Instead the firm suggests users running such legacy platforms protect their systems by using a network firewall.

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By  Matthew Wade Published  June 11, 2006

Microsoft has decided not to fix a security flaw that could leave PCs running Windows 98 or Windows ME open to hackers, because it claims the patch required could cause other software applications not to work. Instead the firm suggests users running such legacy platforms protect their systems by using a network firewall. The threat itself relates to Windows Explorer and could lead to intruders (a.k.a. hackers) being potentially able to take over an affected PC. Microsoft first warned users about the problem back in April through one of its regular security bulletins. At that time it also provided a patch to fix the problem in its Windows Server 2003, Windows XP and Windows 2000 operating systems. However, the firm has now announced that it will not offer a version of the fix for legacy users, as it claimed a version of this patch for Windows 98 and Windows Millennium Edition (ME) could lead to applications refusing to run on these platforms. According to the firm's latest security bulletin, to create the patch in the first place would take, “re-engineering a significant amount of a critical core component of the operating system”, after which it warned, "there would be no assurance that applications designed to run on these platforms would continue to operate." Instead the firm advised users running 98 and ME to protect their systems by using any network firewall that filters traffic on TCP Port 139. The best way to ensure the safety of computers currently running Windows 98 or Windows ME is to upgrade their operating systems, Microsoft added. Windows 98 was first released in 1998, with its Second Edition following the year after. Its Windows Millennium Edition then hit the market in the year 2000. Microsoft’s support for 98 and ME is due to end next month when it offers users its final patch on July 11.

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