The Windows upgrade is tough for ATMs, but will boost safety

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Not very long ago, financial institutions completed their final ATM upgrades to Windows 7 with a sigh of relief. Now just a few short years later, FIs are facing another costly and time-consuming upgrade to Windows 10 by Jan. 14, 2020, or face the same security risks they did with the Window 7 migration — no updates, no patches, no technical support, PCI noncompliance, increased operating costs, possible performance issues and more.

With a growing threat of malware and cyberattacks, no FI can afford to do without the security updates which are vital to secure ATM operations.

Windows 10 gives version 7 a run for its money in speed and interface, but its biggest benefit for FIs is security. Windows 10 is being touted as one of the most advanced, secure systems Microsoft has put forth. The operating system (OS) includes a built-in firewall and security scan system, and it is speculated that Microsoft will take Windows 10 to the next level — taking the system to the cloud for added security, additional updates and elimination of physical software.
However, with just a year to go and long lead times for upgrade kits and new machines, Microsoft has not yet released a Windows 10 version for ATMs — leaving many banks and credit unions apprehensive about the upcoming migration. And, while there is talk of developing a more versatile, Linux-based ATM architecture and the ATM Industry Association has unveiled a Next Gen ATM operating system, it may not be ready for prime time by the announced end-of-life date for Windows 7.

Despite advance planning for the Windows 7 migration by banks and credit unions, migration to the version 7 OS was not easy. Manufacturers had long lead times and there were a great deal of software bugs and system failures for at least a year.

The migration to Windows 10 won’t be as simple as installing a new OS either, since some ATMs will require hardware upgrades as well. Because of that, manufacturers are advising the purchase of new ATM terminals. While some in the industry are encouraging the narrative of obsolescence, the truth is much more complicated.

Multiple factors can affect the upgrade path for financial institutions, including the Windows 10 release date versus readiness of the software. Once the OS is released, it will have to be certified by the networks and the ATM manufacturers will have to program drivers to allow any OS to operate on their machines. There may also be software bugs that will have to be worked out.

With long lead times due to machines and components being built overseas, despite the best planning, FIs may not be able to replace or upgrade ATMs in time to meet the end-of-life deadline for Windows 7.

And not all ATMs will be obsolete. System requirements for Windows 10 are relatively simple, requiring 64-bit, a recommended 4GN memory, Intel fourth generation or above and an I5 for multifunction machines. In many cases, this level of system can be achieved with a simple core upgrade performed in the field.

With so much uncertainty, financial institutions don’t know if they should purchase new machines, purchase a Windows-ready refurbished machine, update the terminal’s core now or wait.

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