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Sunset postponed for Windows 98 support

Microsoft announced it has extended support for Windows 98 to 2006, but a veteran security expert says that most of the bugs have been worked out of the OS already.

Windows 98 users rejoice. Microsoft is extending support for the aging operating system.

Redmond is extending support for Windows 98, 98 Second Edition and Windows Millennium Edition until June 30, 2006. Support for the two Windows 98 versions was supposed to end Friday, and support for ME was scheduled to stop at the end of the year.

According to Reuters, Microsoft will continue to offer paid phone support and will evaluate what to do when critical security issues arise.

Veteran vulnerability finder Mark Litchfield, of U.K.-based Next Generation Security Software Inc., said this morning that he doubts there will be many security issues found in Windows 98 anyway. "I've personally never bothered to look at it [for vulnerabilities], as I haven't seen it used at client engagements," he said.

Windows 95 and 98 compose about 20% of Windows-based computers, according to Framingham, Mass.-based International Data Corp. Support for Windows 95 ended Dec. 31, 2001.

Litchfield said he does most of his searching on Windows 2000 and XP, because those operating systems are the ones most enterprises use. Attackers focusing on specific targets using Windows 98 may look for ways to exploit it, but worm writers have moved on to Windows XP, he said.

"Virus writers are looking for platforms with large user bases," he said. "For that same reason, we have not seen a lot [of worms] for Windows Server 2003. It will be a while yet until it's adopted on a mass scale."

The extension of support shouldn't be seen as an about-face for Microsoft. The company, like any other software vendor, ends support for products so that customers will upgrade to the latest and greatest versions.

In this case, Microsoft is extending support in part because those versions are still in use in developing countries such as Kazakhstan and Slovenia, the company said.

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