BANKS are being forced to buy extended support contracts for Windows XP, in order to avoid being left unprotected when the product reaches end of life in the next few weeks.
Reuters reported that five of the UKs biggest banking organisations - Lloyds Banking Group, Royal Bank of Scotland, HSBC, Barclays and Santander - have either arranged, or are in the process of arranging deals to buy further time to upgrade their systems and ATM cash dispensers.
Even though the customer facing ATMs run Windows XP Embedded, which is still supported until 2016, many dependent systems that access the internet run standard Windows XP and are susceptible to cyber attacks. Last year two banks were targeted by hackers who were able to insert a KVM switch in order to control computers and divert funds.
A Microsoft spokesman explained, "There are certainly large enterprise customers who haven't finished their migrations yet and are purchasing custom support... The cost will depend on both the specific needs of the customer and what support they already have in place, so it's different for every customer."
Royal Bank of Scotland, which has seen its fair share of IT problems in recent months, has already agreed to a three year deal with Microsoft for extended support, by which time it plans to have finished upgrading its systems to Windows 7.
In the US, banks are avoiding upgrading until systems are upgraded for Chip and Pin, which will be rolled out in the next few years.
In any case, Windows 8 does not appear to be part of the roadmap for any of the UK banks, which means that by the time Windows 7 upgrades are completed, it will be less than three years until that, too, reaches end of life and the cycle begins again, though by that time it's expected that many more of us will be using digital wallets in any case. µ