|Microsoft announced that it will be ending tech support for Windows XP, the operating system that 95 percent of ATMs run on, by April 8, according to CNN. After support ends, Microsoft will no longer release updates to patch security holes, leaving the systems vulnerable to potential cyber attacks and hacking.
Windows XP was first released in 2001, meaning that the vast majority of ATMS are operating on a system that is more than a decade old. U.S. banks still using Windows XP for their ATMs are now scrambling to update them by the April 8 deadline, moving to Microsoft’s 2009 platform, Windows 7, despite knowing about the 2014 deadline in 2011.
U.S. Banks Were Advised to Start Upgrading ATMs in 2011 — So Why Did They Wait?
In an August 2011 blog post, NCR Financial Systems, the largest ATM supplier in the U.S., suggested that banks making the switch to Windows 7 “plan early and define a schedule of upgrades and replacements that can be spread over the years up until 2014, allowing for an affordable rate of spending and ensuring Windows 7 can be in place before Windows XP support stops.”
However, ATM software company KAL estimates that only 15 percent of the 420,000 ATMS in the U.S. will be able to make the switch to Windows 7 by April, according to The Verge. Making an OS change is costly and often requires not only software updates, but new ATM hardware or units.
“A lot of ATMs will have to either have their components upgraded or be discarded altogether and sold into the aftermarket — or just junked,” said Suzanne Cluckey, editor of ATM Marketplace, in an interview with Bloomberg.
As for those generic ATM kiosks found in strip malls across America, they actually pose less of a threat; according to CNN, they run on a still-supported OS, Windows CE.
A Hefty Overhaul: ATM Upgrades Could Cost as Much as $3,500 a Machine
According to CNN, in many cases, banks will have to revamp the software on an ATM-by-ATM basis, bringing the cost of an upgrade to between $1,000 and $3,500 a machine.
The remaining hundreds of thousands of ATMs on Windows XP will require stop-gap measurements or may be vulnerable to security breaches. Some banks, including JP Morgan, are purchasing extended Windows XP tech support from Microsoft for their ATM systems, according to Bloomberg.
Microsoft will also be releasing updates to Windows XP’s security software (not the whole OS) through July 2015 to help banks protect consumers as they make the transition.