Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) may had been able to slow the spread of a cyberattack that swept the globe over the weekend but declined to issue a free patch for older versions of its operating system ahead of it.

That’s according to a report in the Financial Times that claimed that rather than issue the fix, the Redmond, Wash., software giant charged some users of its old OS as much as $1,000 a year to protect their computers from threats that played out this past weekend with the “WannaCry” ransomware attack.

High Fees Cited

According to the report in March, Microsoft issued a free patch to protect users running more recent versions of Windows from malware, but customers using its older operating systems, such as Windows XP, were charged fees for what the company called custom support. In 2014, the year support for XP ended, the software provider charged $200 per device, and that jumped to $400 per device in 2015. A person who saw the pricing told the paper the fee increased to $1,000 per device.

It had offered deals for government agencies during the first year support for the OS was over, but the pricey nature of it resulted in many customers, such as Britain's National Health Service, giving up on paying for custom support. The NHS was one of the first to get hit with WannaCry attack on Friday, which resulted in it urging people to stay away from hospitals as it worked to contain the problem. It quickly spread around the globe, impacting 150 countries. Microsoft did make the patch free on Friday after the cyberattack had already started spreading. (See also: Credit Suisse Says 'WannaCry' Should Make Microsoft Shareholders Happy.)

 

Blamestorming

The company has been getting a lot of flak in the aftermath of the global cyberattack, but it hasn’t been sitting idly by. Microsoft President Brad Smith argued in a blog post over the weekend and in an interview with NPR that Windows users and government spy agencies share the blame. According to Smith, Microsoft released a patch two months ago that may have stopped WannaCry from propagating. The lack of action on the part of companies to install the patch, led to the massive attack.

It doesn’t help that some of the infected computers were running Windows XP, an operating system launched 16 years ago. "We need to make it as easy as we can for people to patch their systems, and then customers have to apply those patches," the executive told NPR. "It's worth remembering Windows XP not only came out six years before the first iPhone. It came out two months before the very first iPod. Think about how antiquated that feels to us today." Smith also called out intelligence agencies including the National Security Agency, which first developed the attack method that was stolen and refined by hackers. (See also: Security Stocks Up After Global Ransomware Attacks)

Security experts are siding with Microsoft and its fee structure to support older versions of Windows arguing it’s designed to get people to stop using antiquated software. Still, critics contend the technology powerhouse can’t abandon users or charge them a fortune just because they’ve released a new version of its OS. 

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