Argument breaks out between security vendor and Microsoft over inclusion of XP mode

Sophos criticises Windows 7

A major row has broken out between Microsoft and antivirus vendor Sophos over concerns with the security of Windows 7’s XP emulation mode.

Sophos’ chief technology officer Richard Jacobs warned that the inclusion of the mode comes at the expense of security, according to The Register. He argued that Microsoft’s eagerness to encourage people to upgrade by the inclusion of the XP emulator will leave Windows 7 users open to attack.

"XP mode is an independent Windows instance, that shares the odd folder and device with the host Windows 7 installation," said Jacobs. "What it doesn’t share is processes and memory. So it doesn’t share security settings, security software, patches etc. It does not inherit any security from the host.

"When you use XP mode, you need to patch the copy of XP as well as the host Windows 7. You need to manage settings separately, configure two personal firewalls and install and manage two copies of anti-malware software."

In response, Microsoft’s chief security advisor for EMEA, Roger Halbheer described the XP mode as a temporary solution, arguing that it was more dangerous to leave customers on a ten year old operating system for several more years, than migrating them to the new system.

However, Jacobs retorted that Halbheer’s argument was flawed and that the continued need for XP compatibility was not addressing the problems that that reliance on the OS raised. He warned that failure to address it may see IT managers opt to stick with XP.

That prompted Microsoft developer James O’Neill to respond angrily, accusing Jacobs of getting his facts wrong and totally misunderstanding which versions is aimed at which market. "Windows XP Mode is specifically designed to help small businesses move to Windows 7," adding that several of the possible problems cited by Jacobs are inherent to larger businesses, which should be using Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualisation in the first place.

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