"The firewall largely took away that kind of attack," Miller said.
Lai traced a direct connection between XP SP2 and the decrease in network-targeted attacks like SQL Slammer, and the resulting increase in exploits of desktop software, such as Microsoft's Office, or third-party programs, like Adobe's Reader.
Windows XP SP2 was hardly perfect. During its nearly-six-year run Microsoft patched it with over 250 security updates, issuing the largest number (52) in 2006. Even early on, it had problems: just days after its launch, security researchers spotted two flaws that could let attackers sidestep its new defences.
The bottom line, however, XP SP2 will be remembered by security professionals more for its successes than for its failings.
"It's an end of an era," said Oliver Lavery, the director of security and research and development for nCircle, of XP SP2's retirement. "It was definitely a big move toward better security, and I think it's legacy has proven successful."