Thousands of computer systems used by HMRC and the NHS will become vulnerable to attack after Microsoft drops support for Windows XP in April 2014, leading to a "free-for-all" for hackers, a Labour shadow Cabinet Office minister has warned.
Saying HMRC and the NHS have "dropped the ball" in terms of planning a contingency plan for the switch-off, Jonathan Ashworth has stated that families will be "fearful for their private health and tax information", which could be easily stolen due to an absence of protection initiatives for thousands of systems still run by an underlying Windows XP platform.
Ashworth said that ministers must "urgently disclose" who may be at risk from upcoming security breaches.
Support for all features of the 12-year-old operating system was originally meant to stop on 8 April 2014, but Microsoft announced in January that it would still operate a virus warning service for users running XP, in an attempt to alert them of problems needing urgent attention.
But around a third of all PCs are still estimated to be running Windows XP, with a potentially worrying number of the UK's public sector systems among them.
Microsoft's latest operating system, Windows 8, launched in 2012, has now scraped around 10 per cent of the market share, but with rumours of an impending announcement of a possible new OS codenamed "Threshold", there are legitimate fears that Windows XP users may be holding back migration before Microsoft's rumoured announcement at its Build conference in San Francisco in early April 2014.
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