The decision to end support for Windows XP by Microsoft will finally be implemented next month on April 8. This will not only leave personal computers without any security but also expose most Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) to cyber-attacks. With an outdated system, doing something as simple as going to the ATM might become a security threat if banks do not immediately take control of the situation.
Microsoft announced in September of 2007 that they would no longer be providing updates or support to their Windows XP operating system. This would mean that users who still use Windows XP would no longer receive security updates, important fixes to patch holes and would also no longer have access to online technical content update.
It was noted that the effect would not be limited to personal users but would have a much wider impact. Almost six in every 10 ATMs available run on the Windows XP system. For this reason all the ATMs that continue to use the current system would be rendered ineffective but most importantly would become vulnerable to unauthorized access.
Microsoft said that since they had already made their intentions clear as early as 2007; they gave ample time for everyone to shift to the latest versions of their operating system. Microsoft has also been working hard to inform all of their customers of this impending change. Banks now only have less than a month before support for Windows XP permanently ends and their ATMs are left exposed to security threats.
No official statement by Microsoft has been made as to how individual banks would handle the situation. Certain banks however were willing to share their strategies and methods of implementing the new systems. JPMorgan Chase verified that they had entered negotiations for an extension program which would provide custom support from Microsoft. TD Bank stated that they had already begun on their upgrade as soon as news for ending Windows XP support broke out.
Andrew Brent, spokesperson for Citibank, said that customer protection was their number one priority and that they are already in the midst of transitioning from their current system to the newer ones. Bank of America opted to refrain from making any sort of an official statement.
Co-founder of IdentityTheft911 Adam Levin said that if banks do not upgrade their ATMs the biggest danger to customers would be the massive holes in security. These would provide easy access to hackers as they would be able to access data just as it comes in. Levin recommends that all the banks be quick to upgrade their ATMs as soon as possible. He also urged customers to stay vigilant and keep an eye on their account and transaction history. The best practice, according to Levin, is to refrain from using a universal pin for all banks. If a single bank is breached then it becomes possible to access all other banks as well.
Although the support ends on the 8th of April, Enterprise customers still on the current system after the expiration date can use Custom Support. Custom Support is not intended to extend the expiration date of Windows XP but will simply serve as a temporary interface while the company migrates to modern operating systems.
ATM Industry Association said that almost 38 percent of the ATMs in the US that previously ran on Windows XP have been upgraded. There still are, however, a number of banks that have yet to do so. Customers are therefore recommended to pay extra attention and remain cautious while using an ATM. Perhaps with increasing possibility of ATMs being exposed to threats as support for Windows XP ends it is best to be safe rather than sorry.
By Hammad Ali