Avast: Windows XP Accounts for Nearly 75 Percent of Rootkit Infections

Paul Lilly

Users still clinging to Windows XP like that fast and gnarly Trans Am from yesteryear that's just too familiar to part with have yet another reason to consider a new ride. According to security firm Avast, XP is a fertile breeding ground for cyber infection, especially for rootkits, of which 74 percent of infections originated from in a recent six-month study cataloging over 630,000 samples.

Windows XP is the most common operating system among Avast users with nearly half sticking with the nearly decade old OS. It's also one of the easier OSes to pirate, and according to Avast, un-patched and pirated versions of XP make up the main vector for rootkit infections.

"One issue with Windows XP is the high number of pirated versions, especially as users are often unable to properly update them because the software can't be validated by the Microsoft update," said Przemyslaw Gmerek (PDF) , the Avast expert on rootkis and lead researcher. "Because of the way they attack -- and stay connected -- deep in the operating system, rootkits are a perfect weapon for stealing private data."

Rootkit infections dropped off considerably for Windows Vista and Windows 7 in Avast's study, though the security outfit warns that more recent OSes aren't entirely immune.

"Cybercriminals are continuing to fine-tune their attack strategy with the Master Boot Record (MBR) remaining their favorite target for even the newest TDL4 rootkit variant," Avast stated in its report.

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