As the April 8th deadline nears, the majority of ATMs are still running Windows XP

Hammad Saleem

Windows XP

Microsoft has made it pretty clear that the company will kill support for one of the most popular operating systems they ever made, Windows XP, on April 8th. The Redmond giant will continue to provide anti-malware signatures to its applications, including Microsoft Security Essentials, until July 2015. However, there is one particular group who should be much more worried about the deadline given by Microsoft — ATM operators.

According to BusinessWeek, almost all of the 420,000 ATM machines running in the United States are powered by Windows XP. It’s not just the U.S., almost 95 percent of ATMs found across the globe runs on Windows XP, and with the April 8 deadline right on the horizon, there’s a pretty strong reason for many of them to panic by now. ATMs are one of the most commonly used technological machines with computers that runs the operating system, and with the end of support date for Windows XP coming near, owners have a little they could do, which includes upgrading the operating system from Windows XP, possibly to Windows 7.

However, it’s not as simple as its sounds. Upgrading the existing machines to Windows 7 is going to take its toll. Many ATMs run outdated hardware that is not capable of running the Windows 7, which means that owners must upgrade the hardware of the existing machines before April 8th. Although Microsoft promised to provide the anti-malware support for one more year, there is still a chance of risks as Microsoft will not provide any updates to patch any security loophole that may exist inside the operating system itself. And, upgrading the existing hardware may not be the cheapest thing to do as it could cost the companies thousands of dollars to make sure the hardware is capable of running Windows 7. 

According to Suzanne Cluckey, the editor of ATM Marketplace, “A lot of ATMs will have to either have their components upgraded or be discarded altogether and sold into the aftermarket – or just junked.”

While those who will ignore the deadline and continue to operate will be more vulnerable to malware attacks. Although customers are protected in such scenarios such as ATM frauds by the standard protections banks offer to ATM users, there’s still a huge risk for the company itself, and I doubt there are any OEMs who want to make it to the headlines with such negativity.

Let’s hope ATM manufacturers will take the deadline seriously, and will upgrade their machines in due course to prevent any unexpected events from taking place.