Microsoft has warned that one in every six personal computers in Hong Kong faces potential security risks because they still run on Windows XP, the company's 12-year-old operating system.
The software giant, along with other industry experts, said yesterday that Windows XP was neither capable of defending against sophisticated cyberattacks nor adequately providing privacy and productivity.
Alan Chan, the national technology officer at Microsoft Hong Kong, said there were about 90 days left before Windows XP, which was released in October 2001, is officially retired worldwide on April 8, following a few extensions made by the company. Many other computer hardware and software companies will end support on the same date.
But data from Web analytics firm StatCounter show that Windows XP is still running on 16 per cent of the personal computers in Hong Kong.
Microsoft estimates that about 1.53 million personal computers run Windows XP out of a total of 9.32 million calculated by research firm IDC.
"Clearly, there's a lack of urgency in some organisations in Hong Kong to make migration to a newer operating system - either Windows 7 or Windows 8 - a priority," Chan said. "We are really worried that these organisations are cutting it too close to the end of service date."
From April 8, Microsoft will no longer provide automatic fixes or online technical assistance for Windows XP. This means that users will no longer receive security updates that help protect their personal computers from harmful viruses, spyware and other malicious software that steal personal information.
Leung Siu-cheung, a senior consultant at the Hong Kong Computer Emergency Response Team Co-ordination Centre, said: "Continued use of Windows XP poses additional threats because old software is more vulnerable to attacks.
"Windows XP was a state-of-the-art system designed to protect against various malware and online attacks when it was introduced 12 years ago, but hackers have become smarter."
Chan pointed out that Microsoft and its partners, including distributors, aim to step up education campaigns on upgrading from Windows XP. Free upgrade training is available for consumers at designated PCCW-HKT shops and Suning stores. Microsoft has also formed an "XP Free Upgrade Donation" programme for qualified non-profit and non-governmental organisations.
"The majority of those who have lagged behind in Hong Kong in terms of upgrading from XP are small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), as well individual consumers," Chan said.
Government estimates put the number of SMEs in the city at 308,761 as of June last year.