Microsoft to discontinue Windows XP support: Banks affected

Windows XP

Microsoft has finally decided to end support for Windows XP from April 8, 2014. Windows XP was supported by Microsoft for last 12 years. The end of support now threatens the organisations, still using Microsoft XP as operating system. It is estimated that in India it will be mostly the banking and financial services (BFSI) industry that is in risk of being impacted by this decision.

Windows XP is an operating system of Microsoft released in 2001, is one of the most popular operating systems released for home as well as business customers. In 2001 when hackers were still struggling to hack the security features of Windows NT and windows 2000, Microsoft did put in the best security measures of that time in Windows XP.

Microsoft has now decided to withdraw support for Windows XP from 8th April 2014. Windows XP is still used in over 65000 bank branches. Although they can try to upgrade but the base has to remain with Windows XP, which in turn will affect about 20-30 percent of the entire banking population. Windows XP being an old operating system is easy to hack and the decision of Microsoft is going to expose this operating system for hackers. Windows XP is still being used in 60 percent Semi-Urban Sector and 70 percent of Rural Sector banks.

Microsoft has confirmed that there will not be any updates or security patch releases. All technical support will end on April 8th 2014.   Microsoft has informed that a few tools of windows XP will still have support available till April 2015. This is basically a buffer to help people upgrade to newer version of windows. These tools will have to be downloaded manually from Microsoft’s Website.

Apart from banks Windows XP is widely spread in retail Business as well. Losing support from Microsoft also exposes this industry to risk. Windows XP was considered the best operating system for managing payment application. A large number of payment applications are designed and programmed to work on XP’s Platform. It is also not recommended to secure an out of date operating system with third party software or application. Symantec’s products are also recommending upgrade to higher versions.

The Impact:

It is estimated that about 4 million personal computers in large organisations use Windows operating system. Out of these 16% or approx 650000 systems are still using Windows XP. The rest have migrated or are migrating to Windows 7 or 8

Current Users

Users Migrated

Industries Affected

Cost of maintaining unsupported OS is also very high. IDC estimates that BFSI sector will have to spend Rs. 1200 crore to support the Windows XP systems in maintenance bills.

However migrations too do not come without a cost. Unlike Windows XP its successors will not support low end systems, forcing organisations to go for hardware upgrades too. The lethargic attitude in upgrading will cost organisations.

Once the support from Microsoft stops Windows XP will be a hacker’s paradise. It is expected that hackers will start their attacks on the systems within minutes after Microsoft suspends the support services. It is estimated that it will hit about 29% of the systems still using Windows XP.

Legally too financial institutions like banks may be in trouble if any incident occurs due to security issues in non-supported windows XP. Under Section 43A of Information Technology Act, 2000, Banks can be held liable for losses if they fail to provide adequate data security and privacy.

Major reasons why one should migrate from Windows XP?

  • It is 3 generations old
  • Does not support biometrics

Where can one still use Windows XP?

  • Terminal is not connected to Internet
  • Archives
  • Scanning devices

It is necessary to migrate to newer versions of windows in order to ensure security. As per a report if proper actions are not taken on time, Indian banks are at a risk of loss for more than 300 Crore within a time frame of 3 days. The entire industry is at risk which can bring great damage to the economy of the country. Retail, payments and IT sectors can still migrate to the newer versions easily as compared to banking industries as the number is too high. We also need to take of data storage and security while migrating to newer versions as it impacts the different technologies involved around.

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