Security Experts:

Windows Registry Hack for Updates Could Cause Functionality Issues: Microsoft

Thinking of changing the Windows registry to continue getting updates for Windows XP? Not so fast, Microsoft said.

Late last week, a report circulated about a hack that tricked the Windows Update service into identifying Windows XP computers as Windows Embedded POSReady 2009 (now known as Windows Embedded Industry). The hack was first reported on an online forum.

According to Microsoft, this is not as good as it sounds.

"The security updates that could be installed are intended for Windows Embedded and Windows Server 2003 customers and do not fully protect Windows XP customers," a Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement. "Windows XP customers also run a significant risk of functionality issues with their machines if they install these updates, as they are not tested against Windows XP. The best way for Windows XP customers to protect their systems is to upgrade to a more modern operating system, like Windows 7 or Windows 8.1."

The hack works this way:  create a text file with a .reg extension with the following contents:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00 

The next step is to save it as a .reg file and doubleclick to import it. After that, POSReady2009 Updates will now install on a normal XP and Windows Updates shows also the updates for POSReady2009.

Without trusted authentication, there is always a way for anything or anyone to masquerade as something else on the Internet - this hack is just another example of that, said Steve Hultquist, CIO and vice president of customer success for RedSeal Networks.

"The fundamental issue here is looking backwards at technology that feels comfortable. Windows XP was released to manufacturing in August 2011, when a T1 (1.5 Mbps) was considered "high speed" and technology has accelerated rapidly in the past 15 years," he continued. "Similarly, it's simpler to focus on the historically understood aspects of security such as firewalls, but the complexity of the Internet and enterprise networks mean that you must have systems to analyze your overall, end-to-end network to know what you have and know the potential for attack. Don't compromise. Use the current tools to stay safe and get the job done effectively."

Jerome Segura, senior security researcher for Malwarebytes, added that while it may be tempting to use this hack, users should bear in mind that Microsoft did not intend for those updates to be applied to regular Windows XP.

"The hack is interesting and certainly people will try it out for fun, but it should not be considered a viable option for businesses or consumers," he advised. "Instead, you should plan on migrating to a newer, and supported, platform."

Microsoft officially ended support for Windows XP April 8, though the company did release an update later to cover XP users due to attacks targeting Internet Explorer. 

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