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Hackers target Microsoft Windows XP support system

Hi-tech criminals are "escalating" attacks on an unpatched bug in the Windows XP help and support system.

Microsoft said it had seen more than 10,000 machines hit by the attack that, so far, it has not found a fix for.

Windows PCs falling victim will have control of that machine handed over to attackers.

Microsoft said the attacks had gone from theoretical to real very quickly and urged users to take steps to protect themselves.

'Nightmare' attack

Microsoft revealed the upturn in attacks in a blog post saying that it had been monitoring activity around the loophole since it was first revealed on 10 June.

Found by Google engineer Travis Ormandy, the loophole revolves around the Help and Support system built into XP. Mr Ormandy found that it was possible to exploit its ability to give remote aid and apply fixes to ailing machines.

Initially, said Microsoft, it only saw "innocuous" attacks by researchers attempting to replicate what Mr Ormandy had found.

Real exploits turned up on 15 June and these have been enthusiastically adopted by hi-tech criminals. More...

07-01-2010 15:58