Tags: windows | xp | atm | outdated

Hacking Risk Grows for Outdated ATMs

Sunday, 19 Jan 2014 06:00 PM

By Greg McDonald

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If bank customers didn't already have enough to worry about, there's a new concern to draw their interest: out-of-date ATM software.

Bloomberg Businessweek reports that 95 percent of the United States' automatic teller machines are still running Windows XP, which is 13 years old – ancient in the computer world. Microsoft ends tech support for XP on April 8, meaning it will no longer provide updates for protection against viruses, spyware, and other malware.

There is good news for some of the 420,000 ATMs run on Windows XP Embedded. That operating system is less susceptible to viruses, and Microsoft support for them continues until 2016.

ATMs that are part of a network can have their software updated remotely and all at once, but single machines, such as some of the ones at convenience stores, will have to be updated manually.

And in some instances that won't even be possible if the machine is so old it can't handle the new software. Such machines may have to be completely junked and replaced.

Technically, the ATMs can continue to run on the old software, but without updates from Microsoft they will become increasingly vulnerable to hackers, who could break into accounts and steal customers' money.

The replacement software in some cases is merely putting off the inevitable; Windows 7, itself four years old, will be used for the new OS rather than the current Windows 8.1.

Aravinda Korala, CEO of ATM software provider KAL, told Bloomberg that only 15 percent of bank ATMs will meet the April 8 deadline.

"The ATM world is not really ready, and that's not unusual," Korala said. "ATMs move more slowly than PCs."

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