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Windows XP source code reportedly discovered online

Windows XP
(Image credit: Microsoft)

The source code for Microsoft’s 19-year-old Windows XP operating system (and other versions) has been leaked online, reports suggest.

Published as a torrent file on bulletin board website 4chan, the 43GB data dump is said to have been compiled over the course of the last few months by the leaker.

The collection also includes source code for Windows 2000 and multiple versions of Windows CE, MS DOS, Windows Embedded and Windows NT - but all of which have a smaller modern install base than XP.

The individual responsible for the leak also appears to bear Bill Gates a distinct grudge, dedicating a whole section of the torrent file to videos slandering the Microsoft founder.

The legitimacy of the leaked code has not yet been confirmed, but Microsoft has been made aware of the issue.

“We are investigating and will take appropriate action to help keep customers protected," a Microsoft spokesperson told TechRadar Pro.

Windows XP source code

Although support for Windows XP lapsed in 2014 - meaning the OS has not received security updates for a number of years - a surprising number of users remain loyal to the outdated operating system.

As of last month, 1.26% of all laptops and desktop computers worldwide were still running XP - a greater proportion than much younger Microsoft operating systems Windows 8 (0.57%) and Windows Vista (0.12%).

Estimates suggest there are now more than a billion computers in circulation worldwide which, if accurate, would mean that 25.2 million PCs continue to run on Windows XP.

With access to source code, identifying vulnerabilities in the operating system becomes far easier for cybercriminals. In other words, with the Windows XP source code published online, millions of PCs are now at even greater risk of attack.

Further, if chinks in the security armor are identified in the Windows XP source code, it is possible the same code has been recycled and deployed in newer operating systems - such as Windows 10 - which might therefore suffer the same vulnerability.

According to the individual responsible for the source code leak, however, Windows XP source code has been circulating within hacking communities for years now.

If true, it could be safe to assume the code has already been pored over for potential weaknesses and therefore hackers are less likely to identify significant new opportunities as a result of the public leak.