By Jim Chliboyko
The Canadian vending industry was well prepared for the phaseout of free Windows XP security updates
By Jim Chliboyko
April 8 was the date.
April 8 was the date. Wisely waiting a week after April Fool’s Day, April 8, computer giant Microsoft essentially stopped free support of its Windows XP operating system. While some in the computer industry have noted that the company has softened its stance somewhat in recent months (deciding to offer certain security patches, for instance), the lack of service still is a concern in the vending industry.
|Clients who currently have Microsoft Security Essentials will still receive anti-malware signature updates for a limited time.|
On its website, the company says, “Microsoft has provided support for Windows XP for the past 12 years. But now the time has come for us, along with our hardware and software partners, to invest our resources toward supporting more recent technologies so that we can continue to deliver great new experiences.”
What that means is that there will be no security updates for Windows XP users and, as well, Microsoft Security Essentials for Windows XP will no longer be available (although it says that clients who currently have Microsoft Security Essentials will still receive anti-malware signature updates for a limited time). As well, it’s been reported that some critical patches will be available for Microsoft Custom Support subscribers.
In advance of that date, there were headlines screaming things like “Windows XP phaseout puts 13 million Japanese PCs at risk.” Similarly, it’s been estimated that 60 per cent of China’s PCs run on Windows XP, and there’s been a hue and cry about their support ending. Otherwise, it’s been estimated that Windows XP’s market share (the percentage of all computers that are running the system) is hovering between 25 and 29 per cent.
“There’s probably some [operators still on XP] out there; it depends on the size of the operator,” says Sabbir Kabir, national account manager of the Canadian National Vending Alliance. “All of our members in our alliance are the largest operators. They’d probably be up to date.”
Kabir estimates most of the alliance members are operating on Windows 7 or higher versions. Generally, he says, for the larger operators, the IT guys have their backs.
“In terms of our IT support, it’s just given to the third party. We keep our focus on our core business and our IT providers do whatever changes need to be done. We trust them and leave all our requirements in their hands.”
John Suitor of Brokerhouse Distributors, a company that makes the machines, said that none of his company’s machines are powered by Windows operating systems.
“The software is either proprietary, or upgrades have been available for a while,” he said.
For the banking industry, though, there were many reports that the changeover is still potentially troublesome. It’s estimated that 95 per cent of the world’s automated teller machines (ATMs) are still running on Windows XP, an oft-quoted figure cited by Robert Johnston with American ATM maker NCR. Some other ATMs are evidently running on a more basic but more secure version called Windows XP Embedded and support for that version is continuing until 2016. And, according to Computerworld Magazine, “Microsoft’s Malicious Software Removal Tool is aligned with the company’s anti-malware engines and signatures, and as such the removal tool will continue to be provided for Windows XP through July 14, 2015,” a company spokesperson wrote in an email reply to questions.
Curt Binns of the Automated Teller Machines Industry Association (ATMIA) says the potential trouble has been overreported, not unlike the Y2K issue 14 years ago.
“It’s pretty much a non-event,” he said. “There are geographies where there are smaller players that it could have an impact on. But very few; 99 per cent, globally, are ready for this. This is one of the things we’ve had a lot of lead time on. I would say Canada is the most prepared country.”
“Windows 7 and 8 is a hot topic,” said Binns about their upcoming convention. “We are quite far ahead on the curve on this [XP expiration]; about a year and a half ago, we started committee meetings.”
In fact, Binns says he’s cautioned other news organizations not to get too excited about the story. The word “Armageddon” has come up in coverage.
“There’s been a lot of hype. Operators have so much contingency built in, it’s almost overkill,” he said.
Microsoft, meanwhile, suggests that an upgrade to other versions of Windows is necessary for machines still operating on Windows XP. The catch is, of course, that some of the machines are too old to use newer versions of Windows and will no doubt need replacing. Which maybe is why Microsoft is now offering (as of March) $100 trade-in rebates for tablets or PCs that can run Windows 8.1.
Says Kabir, “Any technological change, we do jump on it. Any technological changes are expensive… We do have to keep up with the technology.”