When legacy tech never dies


What happens when a technology that’s past its expiration date continues to be utilized by hundreds of thousands of machines?  It seems like the kind of story that would come up in the business world – and it has, but in an area where modernization and security would seem important: Automatic Teller Machines.

A Businessweek article talks examines the issue that the vast majority of ATMs – 95 percent according to ATM manufacturer NCR – are running Windows XP.  Microsoft has announced that support for the OS will end in 2014 (an embedded variant continues to 2016), meaning security updates will end.

With more than 400,000 ATMs in the U.S. alone, it’s very unlikely that the majority of them will be upgraded this year, meaning there’s a chance that the machines could become vulnerable. The banking industry has faced this problem before; ATMs ran OS/2 until well after it became unsupported (and there’s still a few ancient ATMs out there still running it even now).

The upgrade path will be Windows 7, which continues with the NT-based architecture the two predecessors supported.  Newer ATMs should have a relatively easy upgrade path, but older hardware will probably need more love; upgrades could run a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, which leads to a relatively significant sum when the nation’s ATMs are added up.

Still, it’s an important step to ensure ATMs keep up with the times, and at least in the case of Windows 7 it’s a more modern OS to power innovations in the banking industry, such as instant check deposits and the distribution of more denominations of money.

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