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MS Ignores Plea for Window 98 Security Patches
[December 13, 2005]

MS Ignores Plea for Window 98 Security Patches

(Korea Times)By Kim Tae-gyu

Microsoft, the world's biggest software maker, looks to stop issuing security patches for the Windows 98 operating system starting next July, despite Korea's requests to postpone the plan.

Microsoft Korea, the global giant's affiliate here, Tuesday said the U.S.-based firm decided to go ahead with the original plan on the outdated operating system.

That means users of Windows 98 will be left vulnerable to hacking or virus infections next year.

``We noticed the patch-stoppage scheme in 2002, twice delaying the start day. All software has a lifecycle so we cannot go on offering security patches forever,'' Microsoft Korea spokesman Kwon Chan said.

The decision outright raises the ire of Korean Windows 98 users and experts like the Korea Information Security Agency official Seung Jae-mo, who predicts an onslaught of hacking and virus attacks next year.

``Windows 98 is still widely used in Korea in government offices, medium-sized firms, households and schools. Some of them will be replaced by more advanced systems but some will be still based on Windows 98 next year,'' Seung said.

Seung estimated about 10 percent of Korean PC users depend on Windows 98 and merely half of them would substitute the decade-old system with higher versions like Windows 2000 and XP.

``To protect those who employ Windows 98 beyond next July, we are in talks with online security companies to develop vaccines specific for them,'' Seung said.

``However, we cannot prevent virus infection without patches. Our measures are just meant to straighten things up after viruses attack computers outfitted with Windows 98,'' he added.

In response, Microsoft Korea's chief security advisor Cho Won-young said it is only Korea that is asking for the suspension of the patch-discontinuation plan in the world.

``We also estimate roughly 10 percent of PC operating systems would be Windows 98 here. But most of them do not download our security patches files for Windows 98,'' Cho noted.

Some observers contend that all the kinks are triggered by Korea's heavy reliance on the proprietary Windows software. Instead, they argue the country should promote the use of open-source programs like Linux.

Linux is an emerging operating system alternative to the thus-far dominant Windows and its basic versions are available at no cost. The underlying source code of Linux is open to the public so that programmers can seamlessly upgrade it.

The government has put forth efforts to beef up the presence of open-source programs in Korea but such campaigns have not been satisfactory due to the monopolistic status of Windows.

Currently, Windows accounts for about 99 percent of the nation's market for PC operating systems, according to the Korea IT Industry Promotion Agency.

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