How will Windows XP ending affect ATMs?

Posted at: 04/08/2014 6:46 PM
By: Rebecca Fath

Microsoft is pulling the plug on the popular Windows XP program. They’re moving onto new technology, but that could leave your computer, or worse, your money in the hands of criminals. Experts say the majority of all ATMs still use XP. So will your cash and personal information be in danger when you use one? There are mixed opinions on that, but an information security expert says it's nothing to worry about for now.

It's the end of the life of Windows XP support, the program used in 95 percent of ATMs in the country, according to Bloomberg’s Business Week. Will that make the ATMs you use easy to hack?

Bill Stackpole, associate professor at RIT, said, "I think the opportunity for that to happen is not one about which I’m going to be concerned.”

Bill Stackpole is an associate professor at RIT. He teaches computer security and he says there are two versions of the program.

Stackpole said, “The desktop version comes with all the things you know and love. It comes with a browser, it comes with email clients.”

And an embedded version, found in the majority of ATMs in the country, which Stackpole says is tougher to hack. 

Stackpole said, “Embedded XP does not by default have all of these tools available to the user and is limited in its attack surface.”

So someone using a computer is more vulnerable to being hacked than someone using an ATM.

Stackpole said, “You don't have physical access to the box, you don't get a keyboard, there is no browser installed."

Another thing to remember he says is ATMs don't carry much of your personal information.

Stackpole said, “They contain money, they contain stripe data from your ATM card. They should delete that data when the transaction is completed.  You could potentially break into an XP embedded box, it is possible."

It is just unlikely. But the longer banks wait to upgrade software, he says the more vulnerable the system gets.

News10NBC reached out to several local banks. None were able to answer questions about whether or not their ATMs will be affected by the switch.

If you're concerned about your account, experts say there are always ways to protect yourself from identity theft including keeping a close eye on account activity. 

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