Microsoft is said to have held back a software fix that could have slowed the spread of the WannaCry ransomware on older versions of Windows. Instead, it reportedly charged customers a hefty price to provide protection against such threats. The ransomware has affected over 200,000 computers in more than 150 countries.

Microsoft, Windows, WannaCry
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WannaCry could have been slowed

The Financial Times claims that Microsoft withheld a free repair for older versions of its software, instead charging users $1,000 annually per device for protection against WannaCry-like threats.

In March, the company released a free patch that would have protected computers from the malware. However, the patch was only released to the newer version, Windows 10, while users of older versions, like Windows XP, were left pay large fees for so-called “custom” support. Last Friday, Microsoft finally made the patch available to Windows XP machines free of charge, but the damage has been done.

Microsoft on why it is charging for security

Several of its customers are still running older versions of the operating system even though the software maker has discontinued support for them. The older software may be vulnerable to exploits that resulted in the WannaCry attacks last week. The company gave government users a special deal in the first year, but organizations like the U.K.’s National Health Service dropped support after that because of the high costs.

“The high price highlights the quandary the world’s biggest software company faces as it tries to force customers to move to newer and more secure software,” the Financial Times said.

Microsoft has been limiting support for its older software and is trying to convince users to switch to its more secure and newer Windows 10.

In a statement to CNET, a Microsoft spokesperson said, “Recognizing that for a variety of business reasons, companies sometimes choose not to upgrade even after 10 or 15 years, Microsoft offers custom support agreements as a stopgap measure.”

A Microsoft spokesperson told AFP that the company would prefer that companies upgrade and realize the full advantages of the most recent version instead of choosing custom support.  The spokesperson added that security experts agree that the best protection is an up-to-date, modern system that incorporates the most recent defense-in-depth innovations.

“Older systems, even if fully up-to-date, simply lack the latest protections,” the executive said.

Pay more for additional security

Meanwhile, in another controversial pricing move, the company also started charging customers in the top-of-the-line version, Windows 10, for additional security, notes FT. This is the first time the Windows maker has treated the highest level of security as an add-on feature of its software.

Many have censured the software maker for leaving other versions of Windows more open to cyber-attacks. Experts believe that security should be included in all versions of Windows and that it is unfair to charge for a more secure version of Windows.