By: Buddy Arriola, CISA, MsC
According to Microsoft, support for Windows XP ends on April 8, 2014. This means that starting this date, Microsoft will stop providing technical assistance, hotfixes and security updates to protect Windows XP computers and devices. Windows XP is widely used and operates not only on computers but on many other devices as well including Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), Point-of-Sale (POS) devices, and medical devices. When support for Windows XP ends, these devices will become easy prey for criminals. Hackers target computers and systems with known vulnerabilities and exploit these either to extort money, to steal data, to disrupt services or even just for fun. “Windows XP vulnerabilities” pose a big threat in information security and is one of the top 10 security issues for 2014, according to SC Magazine for IT Security Professionals.
Risks for continued use of Windows XP
Although Windows XP will continue to work, Windows XP computers and devices will no longer have protection from new malwares and vulnerabilities after April 8, 2014. This means Windows XP will become vulnerable to hackers and criminals that could lead to potential cybercrimes and information security breaches. Also, eventually, more and more applications will become incompatible and will stop working with Windows XP. This could lead to potential system downtimes, work inefficiencies, and significant technical support cost. According to ZDNet, custom support is available at a minimum cost of $200 per pc for the first 12 months, $500 for the second 12 months, and $1,000 for the third 12 months. As such, Microsoft suggests upgrading your computer to Windows 8.1 or getting a new PC. Getting a new PC may be a more cost effective solution due to unreasonably high support cost. Getting a new PC may also be your only option in some instances because Windows 8.1 is not compatible with older machines. If you have not already started doing anything, getting new PCs may also be the quickest and surest solution.
Risks for Embedded Windows XP (XPe) devices
A scaled down version of the Windows XP operating system is embedded in many other devices including ATMs and Point-of-Sale (POS) devices (e.g. modern day cash registers) thus making these devices susceptible to Windows XP vulnerability attacks. Although there are products (e.g. Symantec Endpoint Protection for Windows Embedded) and information security best practice (e.g. Make Windows XP write protected) available that can provide protection against hackers, viruses, and other malicious codes for Windows embedded devices, nothing is foolproof. Target’s and Neiman Marcus’s systems were compromised by hackers fairly recently or towards the end of 2013 by installing infected POS systems on their network. The infected systems allowed the collection of payment information after a card is swiped. According to PC World many criminals are hacking POS devices by attacking the terminals directly from the Internet. Also, hackers are finding another way into company networks by exploiting other software vulnerabilities. Determined hackers will try to find a way to break into your system. As such, it is important to have the appropriate preventive (e.g., change management, patch management, virus protection, and firewall) and detective controls (e.g, intrusion detection and monitoring) to minimize your Windows XPe risks.
Many banks including Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and Royal Bank of Canada are operating their ATMs on XPe, according to InfoSec. Fortunately, the End of Life and Support for embedded Windows XP is not until December 31, 2016 giving banks, financial, and other institutions with XPe devices some time to plan and prepare. Banks and institutions are urged to start planning ahead to better prepare for the December 31, 2016 Windows XPe End of Life and Support date.
Risks for ATM Machines powered by Windows XP
About 95 percent of the world’s Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) are powered by Windows XP, according to a CSO Security and Risk Report published in January 2014. Of all the ATMs, approximately 420,000 are in the United States. Unfortunately, many Banks have not started converting their ATMs. JP Morgan has purchased the costly custom support from Microsoft and plans to begin converting its 19,000 machines starting July 2014, according to the report. There is a general consensus on published articles on this topic on the Internet that Banks should upgrade their ATMs to more current or modern operating systems in order to minimize their risk and to protect their customers.
Regulatory Compliance Risk
The Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) expects Banks, Financial Institutions and third party service providers that use Windows XP computers and other devices to follow the FFIEC Risk Assessment and Risk Management guidance to identify and mitigate the risks associated with Windows XP End of Life and Support. The joint statement by the FFIEC agencies stressed the importance of adhering to the risk assessment and management guidance as defined in the FFIEC IT Examination Handbook in order to ensure the protection of the integrity, availability and confidentiality of customer data. At a minimum, these should include the following:
Over the last several months, many institutions upgraded their Windows XP computers to more current operating systems based on recommendations from their most recent regulatory exams. Regulators expect banks and financial institutions as well as third party service providers to address and manage their Windows XP End of Support risks. If your institution has not done so, make it a priority to perform your Windows XP End of Life and Support risk assessment and risk management in order to meet the FFIEC regulatory requirement.
Summary and Conclusion
Windows XP Life and Support ends in less than 60 days. Windows XP vulnerabilities and unpatched systems will make it easier for criminals to hack Windows XP computers and devices after support ends on April 8, 2014. As such, these systems are highly likely going to be targeted by criminals and hackers. If you are still using Windows XP computers and devices and have not already performed a Windows XP End of Life and Support risk assessment and risk management, you may be at risk after support ends on April 8, 2014. Make it your priority to perform your Windows XP End of Life Support risk assessment and risk management and to upgrade all relevant Windows XP computers, ATMs and other devices to more current operating system(s) and/or more secure platform(s). Fortunately, there is still time for organizations to complete their migrations before the April deadline if they act quickly enough, according to online sources. There are online tutorials, industry best practice guides, and migration tools that are widely available on the Internet (see helpful links below for examples) as well as professional help and services to expedite your Windows XP migration.
Top 10 issues in IT security for 2014, http://www.scmagazineuk.com/top-10-issues-in-it-security-for-2014/article/326564/, Doug Drinkwater, December 20, 2013
Windows XP SP3 and Office 2003 Support Ends April 8th, 2014 , http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/enterprise/endofsupport.aspx
Upgrade to Windows 8.1 from Windows Vista or Windows XP, http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-8/upgrade-from-windows-vista-xp-tutorial
Best Practices for Windows Migration, https://www.kace.com/land/pdf/wp-windows-migration?ad_group=Windows-7-Deployment&utm_campaign=nam-XP-Migration&utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&keyword=windows%20xp%20end%20of%20life&campaign_id=701400000009UzE
ATMs running Windows XP robbed with infected USB sticks – yes, most ATMs still run Windows, http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/173701-atms-running-windows-xp-robbed-with-infected-usb-sticks-yes-most-atms-still-run-windows, Sebastian Anthony, December 30, 2013
Windows XP still runs 95 percent of ATMs, http://blogs.csoonline.com/security-awareness/2935/windows-xp-still-runs-95-percent-atms, Tony Bradley, January 20, 2014
Windows XP support cutoff poses data breach risk for retailers http://www.pcworld.com/article/2093940/windows-xp-support-cutoff-poses-data-breach-risk-for-retailers.html, Jeremy Kirk, February 3, 2014
Determining which version of Windows Embedded your device is running, http://blogs.msdn.com/b/windows-embedded/archive/2008/11/10/determining-which-version-of-windows-embedded-your-device-is-running.aspx , November 10, 2008,
Symantec Endpoint Protection for Windows Embedded, http://www.symantec.com/endpoint-protection-for-windows-embedded
FFIEC: JOINT STATEMENT END OF MICROSOFT SUPPORT FOR WINDOWS XP OPERATING SYSTEM http://ithandbook.ffiec.gov/media/154161/final_ffiec_statement_on_windows_xp.pdf, October 2013
Product Lifecycles, https://www.microsoft.com/windowsembedded/en-us/product-lifecycles.aspx, February 5, 2014
Make Windows XP write protected, http://superuser.com/questions/396509/make-windows-xp-write-protected
Do ATMs running Windows XP pose a security risk? You can bank on it: Banks' insistence on sticking with Windows XP as their ATM OS of choice is a risky move, http://www.csoonline.com/article/747649/do-atms-running-windows-xp-pose-a-security-risk-you-can-bank-on-it?page=2, InfoSec Institute, Kim Crawley, February 3, 2014
Windows XP: What to expect once Microsoft shuts down support, http://www.zdnet.com/windows-xp-what-to-expect-once-microsoft-shuts-down-support-7000025348/, ZDNet, Toby Wolfe, February 3, 2014.
Helpful links for completing your Windows Migration before April 8, 2014:
Free Report on Migrating from Windows XP: Guide for Completing Your Migration Before Support Ends on April 8th, 2014, https://www.kace.com/land/pdf/wp-windows-migration?ad_group=XP-Migration&utm_campaign=nam-XP-Migration&utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&keyword=%2Bxp%20%2Bmigration&campaign_id=701400000009UzE
Windows XP: For Colleges, It's Time to Move On, http://www.edtechmagazine.com/higher/article/2014/02/windows-xp-colleges-its-time-move, Tommy Peterson, February 10, 2014
Webinar: A Smart Strategy for Streamlining and Accelerating Windows 7 Migrations, http://learn.flexerasoftware.com/content/PPC-AR-WBNR-Smart-Strategy-Win7-Migrations?gclid=CKC3oL-6xLwCFfM7OgodQxwABA
How to Migrate from Windows XP Before Microsoft Pulls the Plug, http://www.tomsguide.com/us/windows-xp-migration-guide,news-18038.html, Fashimida Rashid, January 2, 2014
Windows XP holdouts: 3 reasons you must upgrade now, Yes, now, http://www.pcworld.com/article/2068300/windows-xp-holdouts-3-reasons-you-must-upgrade-now-yes-now-.html, PC World, Tony Bradley, December 5, 2013
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