95% of cash machines are about to become vulnerable to hackers

... that's because they're run on Microsoft Windows XP, which Microsoft is about to stop supporting. It's a hacker's dream.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 18 Mar 2014

Windows XP may be over a decade old (it’s been going since 2001), but it’s still one of the world’s most popular operating systems: 29.53% of computers run on it, according to consultant Net Applications.

Unfortunately, that includes 95% of all cash machines in the world, ever. Which presents something of a problem, given that Microsoft will end its support for Windows XP on April 8 this year. If you’re a hacker, it’ll be like Christmas day: experts reckon they will use security updates for Windows 7, Windows 8 and Vista to attack computers (and ATMs) running on XP.

The problems are twofold: firstly, banks have (presumably) been so caught up in the excitement around nearly collapsing that they haven’t got their act together to update their technology. Secondly, XP was the last Windows operating system that got good reviews: since then it’s been Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8, all of which were much-maligned. So if it ain’t broke, why fix it?

That means just a third of the world’s 2.2 million cash machines will have been upgraded to the new platform by the deadline on April 8. At this point, banks have two options: either install new machines, or pay for Microsoft to extend its support. Either way, technology firm SunGard Consulting reckons the UK’s biggest banks will spend £50m-£60m on this. That’s an expenditure they could do without.

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