The Windows XP source code leak and what it will mean

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The Windows XP source code was leaked on September 24th, 2020. There were two original main leaks and since then many more have appeared. The initial two are the most intriguing to look at. Technically, I cannot suggest that you mess around with the files as they are strongly copyrighted in a way which makes that illegal, however, they are all incredibly interesting to know about none the less.

The code was leaked through 4chan as a comment on an ongoing thread talking about existing Windows leaks. The leak consisted of the XP service pack one (XPSP1), as well as a leak of the 2003 (SVR2003) server, build, along with a few other elements not relevant in this context. It was leaked by an anonymous user who replied to the thread saying:

It’s been going around privately for many years now.

xpsp1+srv2003

Get rekt hoarders…

[link redacted]

This was originally uploaded with one file but was quickly updated to include a summary file of all previous leaks. The files were more or less completely in the C or C++ programming language. The fact that the leak was XPSP1 rather than 2 or 3 means that some of the information contained was not necessarily up to date with the latest commercial release of Windows XP, however, this mainly would just be different bug patches and other minor changes.

The two main files consist of a file containing approximately 6 gigabytes of various “.cab”, “.cpp” and “.h” files. Some programmers have been quick to unpack these using a Linux terminal “cabextract” command. The second file consists of around 43 gigabytes of data which consists of various leaks which have occurred over the years. These range from various windows embedded editions, Xbox raw files and many other interesting topics.  Also, it contains many different test files and other confidential PowerPoints. As well as this, various different conspiracy theory style videos about Steve Jobs have been found within the files to top it all off.

Many new conspiracies, including one in a video by Mental Outlaw on YouTube (link), have suggested that the leak may have actually been caused by Microsoft themselves in a way to convince older users such as government departments, which still use Windows XP, to update to their newer operating system. This would work in a way by allowing hackers to be able to see any of the weaknesses of the Windows XP operating system which haven’t already been discovered, making them have to eventually make the move to find a way to update to the newer OS to not risk any security threats to these incredibly large organisations. This has meant that their only defences on Windows XP to any hackers will eventually just be reduced to their firewall and as soon as that can be broken through they will quite easily be able to gain access to that device. By doing this they would be able to greatly increase their current OSs market share, rather than having a large amount of that being taken up by an operating system which has been unsupported by Microsoft since 2014.

Some programmers including NTDEV on YouTube (link) have even managed to complete a full extraction of all of the files, and have then managed to compile into a full, working Windows XP operating system, with only a few parts of the system missing. The video has since been taken down by Microsoft for copyright violations. Whilst in an interview with ZDNet, NTDEV said, “Certain files, such as the kernel and the explorer can be compiled easily. I have tried some programs from the compiled source of XP, and it seems that they are identical to the retail versions of Windows.” According to NTDEV, except for the missing files, the leaked source code can be used to compile all the SKUs, as well as free (optimised) retail builds.

To conclude, the leak has been interesting to explore for many different programmers and will begin to convince many different large companies to investigate and adapt their security protocols and to force them to update to a newer operating system. The leak has also provided a stark reminder over how keeping software up to date is one of the most important steps along with having a good firewall that companies can take to prevent a data breach. The fact that some of the bugs included in the XPSP1 may still be present even in the most current version of Windows 10 will mean that Microsoft is going to have to have a deep check of any bugs that they may have put off fixing to see whether they will have to fix them before hackers have managed to create a hack that would be able to make use of a weakness in the operating system.