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Since releasing the new Microsoft Security Intelligence Report (SIR volume 12) a few weeks ago, one of the top questions I have been asked is about the new malware infection rate data for Windows operating systems.
Why is Windows XP Service Pack 3’s malware infection rate lower than that of Windows Vista SP1?
There are likely several factors contributing to this trend, but I’ll try to provide an educated guess on some of the contributing factors.
Malware that used Autorun feature abuse to infect systems were especially successful on Windows XP based systems. About a year ago I wrote an article called Defending Against Autorun Attacks in which I outlined what Microsoft was doing to fight these threats and shared some of the preliminary results of these efforts. To summarize, Microsoft released security updates for Windows XP and Windows Vista that hardened the Autorun feature on these platforms the same way it is hardened on Windows 7 by default. Shortly after this security update was released we could see a precipitous decrease of Autorun related malware infections on Windows XP and Windows Vista systems.