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Editor's Blog and Industry Comments

Windows XP vulnerabilities in the healthcare industry

28 May, 2014
A blog post from ForeScout details the risks being faced by healthcare companies that are still operating Windows XP systems

Microsoft announced the impending withdrawal of support for its Windows XP operating system in 2012 and the promised cessation happened in April this year, leaving some companies open to vulnerabilities that wouldn't be fixed by the software giant.

In a video blog by Jack Marsal of IT network security company, ForeScout, the healthcare industry is cited as one group of IT users which is likely to be hit by the withdrawal of Microsoft's support. The reason for this is past installations of equipment that runs on programmes created for the Windows XP operating system. Since those programmes are often no longer supported and can't be modified to run in a different environment, there remains no choice but to continue running Windows XP despite the lack of support and the consequent exposure to security vulnerabilities.

Like other industries, the healthcare sector also can also suffer network "blindness" where not all the equipment that is connected to the network can be seen all of the time. These could be computers that are only occasionally switched on or they could be computers that are owned by employees and operated from home in a support role. Those that operate XP could remain hidden from spot audits that are performed and could strike the network later if they're affected by malware that exploits an unresolved vulnerability in XP.

Jack Marsal explains that malware writers are taking advantage of the continued use of the unsupported platform and are reverse engineering vulnerabilities that have been patched in later versions of Windows to see if they can be used as an exploit on Windows XP.

The ForeScout video blog concludes with a link to a paper written by the company on "Mitigating Windows XP Security Risks with ForeScout CounterACT" which sets out 8 recommended best practices for organizations to follow in order to reduce their exposure to the risks presented by running Windows XP.

Click here to view Jack Marsal's video blog and access the mitigation guide.

By Jonathan Newell


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