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What just happened? The venerable Windows XP is one of Microsoft's most beloved and long-lived operating systems, and there's still a small concentration of devotees that refuse to abandon it to this day. If a recent leak is to be believed, the source code for the revered operating system has leaked. It's presently unclear how much of a threat this poses to Windows 10 users, as Windows versions likely all share a certain amount of the code base. Still, it would be a veritable treasure trove for hackers and security researchers alike, and there's no small amount of information that could be gleaned from some of Microsoft's prized IP.
It seems the alleged source code was initially leaked to 4chan, but has since spread to a torrent and a Mega upload. For the uninitiated, Mega is a file hosting and cloud storage service.
While this type of leak seems low risk on the surface, there's a couple of interesting scenarios at play. Assuming the veracity of the leak, users will almost certainly begin reverse engineering the source code to see how it ticks. This could lead to some interesting forks of the ancient operating system that support modern hardware, or it could be used for better compatibility layers and emulation with Linux or macOS.
Or it could lead to bad actors learning some new tricks in Windows-based exploits.
While statistics show that there's still a very small user base for Windows XP, it wouldn't be a profitable attack surface. However, there's almost certainly some Windows XP source code that has lived on under the hood in more modern versions of Windows – like Windows 7 and Windows 10. Even though Windows 7 has reached end-of-life, there's still plenty of users on the operating system.
At this point, we await an official response from Microsoft, as they'll almost certainly be looking to snuff this out.
Image credit: Friemann