Windows XP Source Code Leaked, Posted to 4chan (Update, It Works)

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Update 9/30/20 11:00am PT: ZDNet reports that the leaked Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 source code, which was largely regarded to be authentic, has now been confirmed as genuine.

NDETV compiled the source code for both operating systems and was able to be used as a working operating system. The final compile is missing a few components, such as winlogon.exe, that prevent the OS from being distributed as a fully-working OS replacement, but there is room for additional alterations that could lead to full 'retail' versions of the operating system. 

Naturally, of more pressing concern, the authenticity of the leak does mean that researchers and hackers alike can now take a deeper look inside Windows to understand the inner workings of the operating system. 

Update 9/25/20 12:20pm PT: We have added more details to the text below about new information that has surfaced, including that multiple operating systems are impacted and that conspiracy theory material is also embedded in the torrented copies of the leak. 

Update #2: A Microsoft representative has now responded to our request for comment, merely stating: “We are investigating the matter.”

Original Article:

Reports have emerged today that the Windows XP source code has been leaked to 4chan, with the leaked code then being posted to a torrent and the Mega file sharing service. Reports have also emerged that independent researchers have since begun analyzing the data, with initial indications that the leak is legitimate. However, there hasn't been an official confirmation from Microsoft as to whether or not the leak contains valid code. 

The 42.9 GB leak also reportedly has newly-leaked code for Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, and Windows 2000 mixed in with other various source code from previous leaks. It still remains to be seen if the leak includes the entire source code for Windows XP, or just a subset. 

The torrented files are also reportedly polluted with materials relating to widely-debunked Bill Gates conspiracy theories, but it's unclear if those were tacked on by uploaders after the initial leak was shared to various torrents. (It's also conceivable that nefarious code could have been injected into the torrent, too, but there are no indications of malware as of yet.)

The thread on 4chan has since been archived (it was only open for four hours).

Windows XP, and the Iconic Bliss background that is said to be the most viewed image in history, has now passed its 19th birthday and reached its end of life in 2014, meaning Microsoft no longer supports the operating system. As such, critical security updates and compatibility with modern-era hardware hasn't been added. Regardless, it's predicted that one percent of computers still have the aging operating system installed. 

As such, the leak doesn't present any immediate danger to most XP users: It's unlikely that hackers would invest the time to create new exploits targeting the old operating system - there simply aren't enough users to make it a financially attractive target. 

However, given that Windows has evolved as a continuous series of updates over the last two decades, it is possible researchers could find clues to various mechanisms that provide an attack vector on more modern variants of Windows 10. Also, much like we see with COBOL, which debuted in 1960 and refuses to die, there are likely still many governmental organizations around the world using the operating system.

Coders could also use the source code to add support for newer hardware and possibly spin off custom distributions. Naturally, researchers would also have plenty of interest. 

We're sure that Microsoft will respond quickly in an attempt to stamp out the spread of the Windows XP source code, but given that it appears to have already spread widely, there doesn't appear to be a way to put this genie back in the bottle.

Paul Alcorn
Managing Editor: News and Emerging Tech

Paul Alcorn is the Managing Editor: News and Emerging Tech for Tom's Hardware US. He also writes news and reviews on CPUs, storage, and enterprise hardware.

  • Makaveli
    If companies are still running windows server 2003, and don't have those machines Isolated and with extra protection on the network you deserve to be hacked.
  • Microsoft should open source it and let the community maintain it I bet there’s lots of people who would love to run XP. 😆

    But then nobody would make drivers for it
  • AnimeMania
    Oh well, I guess China now has that operating system that they can completely control that works on the computers systems that they completely control.
  • Math Geek
    the problem as stated many times before is that the modern windows is still based on this same code. this is why a patch made for win 10 also works on 8, 7, vista and xp usually. same code base so patch fixes the issue present in all those versions.

    it also will let those who wish to exploit windows an idea how the code is written. there will be trends and common methods used that will give an understanding on how win 10 works in many ways. knowing how the code is written and basic trends it uses helps a lot into creating exploits. how they harden the code or when they don't bother is VERY VALUABLE info to have when looking to exploit something.

    i realize many don't know as much about programming as others but this is really the concern here. folks need to stop thinking each windows version is somehow independent of the others. obviously newer win 10 features are unique but they will still be written using the same trends and common methods used since windows became a thing.

    think of how many exploits are out there WITHOUT knowing the source code. MS is in trouble here and i'm sure they are looking into the same things i am saying to see how many trade secrets are now in the wild.