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95% of All ATMs Worldwide Runs on Windows XP and Microsoft is Ending Support



On April 8th, 2014, Microsoft’s Windows XP security and technical support was discontinued. This means that millions of computers that still run on Windows XP will be without security updates, among other things. Windows XP is still in wide use among the developing economies, surprisingly, among corporate environments.

Despite its age and well-known vulnerabilities, Windows XP is still among the most widely used operating system on the planet, may be due to the fact that in this corporate environment, specialized applications were written for Windows XP alone.

After 12 years, application developers have not created an updated application that uses one of the newer operating systems. Or perhaps, it will require a new and expensive re-certification to change the operating system and applications.

One of the application that still widely uses Windows XP is the ATM. It is estimated that over 95% of the over 210,000 ATMs worldwide use Windows XP as its operating system!

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With Microsoft ending support and updates for the Windows XP OS, the operators of these ATMs, largely big banks, will no longer be getting automatic security updates for their systems. It has been reported, though, that many of the largest banks have private contracts with Microsoft to continue to service XP with security and other updates.

Despite big banks entering into such private contract with Microsoft that leaves the vast majority of systems running on Windows XP without security updates. These non-bank ATM owners and the regional bank ATM owners may likely become the target of hackers looking to exploit old and new Windows XP vulnerabilities.


Hacking the ATM

ATM has been the victim of Hacks. The legendary security researcher, Barnaby Jack demonstrated at the 2010 annual Black Hat conference in Las Vegas that he could trick an ATM to spit out all of its cash. All he needed was the IP address of the machine and he could then access the management console in the system and he could get it to play a jaunty little tune while spitting out hundreds of $20 bills.

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In addition, he revealed that many of these systems are still connected via dial-up connections and could be found by war-dialling. He was also able to access the users’ account PINs.

Broken ATM Spitting out Cash.
There have also been cases where a broken ATM machine spits out cash. According to ABC news:

The story goes like this: A malfunctioning ATM at a bank in Maine has dispensed $37,000 in cash to a man who requested $140.

South Portland police say they responded to the TD Bank branch Thursday morning after getting a call from a woman who said a man was spending an unusual amount of time at the ATM she was waiting to use. Officers found the man stuffing cash into a shopping bag.

The money was returned to the bank. Bank officials say they don’t want to press charges. But police continue to investigate. The man hasn’t been charged.

A bank official describes the problem as a “code error” and says no customer accounts were affected.

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Business organizations should always upgrade to the latest technology for better security. But I think those systems that run on Windows XP are critical to the operation of the institution, If they weren’t, they would have simply upgraded them.

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