While Microsoft complained about the NSA stockpiling cyber weapons, it has reportedly stockpiled patches, The Register reported.
The report stated that Microsoft was tipped off at the start of 2017 that the NSA’s EternalBlue cyber weapon had been stolen and was going to leak.
EternalBlue could compromise all versions of Windows through a networking bug in SMBv1, and is the attack the WannaCry ransomware used to infect machines.
By March, Microsoft had developed and distributed security fixes for the vulnerability.
In April, the Shadow Brokers leaked several cyber weapons online after reportedly hacking the NSA’s Equation Group. EternalBlue was among the weapons.
According to reports, when the WannaCry ransomware started spreading, many infected devices were running “end-of-life” versions of Windows, including Windows XP.
Microsoft released patches for these versions of Windows, despite them having reached end-of-life.
An analysis by The Register revealed that the patches weren’t new, though, and had been around since February 2017.
It should be noted that Microsoft makes it clear that when an older operating system reaches end-of-life, it no longer receives free support.
Microsoft decided to release the recent patches for free, due to the unprecedented nature of WannaCry, for older version of its OS.
The Inquirer reported that in May 2015, the UK government – whose health services were affected by WannaCry – would not renew its Windows XP support agreement with Microsoft.
The attacks have now raised questions about the use of old software by organisations, and why UK health services were using old versions of Windows without support agreements.