Microsoft this week issued rare security patches for older versions of Windows the company no longer officially supports, bolstering their defenses against malicious software from government-sponsored hackers.

SecurityWatchThe updates are notable because they are available for Windows XP machines, a version of Windows for which Microsoft ended antimalware support almost three years ago. They're intended to mitigate threats from future attacks similar to last month's WannaCry ransomware infestation, which crippled IT systems across the globe by encrypting files and asking victims to pay a ransom to get them back.

While ransomware is not a new problem, WannaCry was particularly worrisome to security experts because it originated from leaked hacking tools originally developed by the US National Security Agency to be used in cyber espionage.

Microsoft released WannaCry patches immediately after the attack, including for older Windows operating systems, but it says the new round of updates is designed to close additional loopholes that could be exploited in future attacks using state-sponsored malware. Windows XP users will need to head to the Windows Update Download Center to install them, while the Windows 10 and Windows 8.1 operating systems will download them automatically.

PC Magazine