Banks and other financial institutions are the most likely to be at risk when support for Windows XP comes to an end today (8 April).

According to security software provider Trend Micro the vulnerabilities in the software will become so extreme that they will pose a significant threat to financial institutions and banks. This may lead to these parties shutting off access to online banking systems for Windows XP users all together.

The fact is, banking malware is growing exponentially as cybercriminals have learned their most profitable attack is to go where the money is.

Trend Micro reports that detections of online banking malware more than doubled from 500 000 worldwide in 2012 to more than 1-million in 2013 – and the US and Brazil alone accounted for 50%, or 500 000 detections, of online banking malware.

These figures, coupled with the number of attacks on banks, combined with the loss of support for Windows XP is creating a perfect storm for vulnerabilities.

Trend also warns that this skyrocketing online banking malware combined with a coming slew of never-to-be-patched vulnerabilities (in XP) means that online banking on Windows XP is going to become incredibly dangerous soon.

So, while there is a risk to the users of those Windows XP systems themselves, the real risk is to the banks of these users who are trying to access the banking systems, as they bring their “dirty washing” with them each time they log on to a system.

What options are available to banks and financial institutions? Trend Micro warns that the options are dwindling fast, and need to move beyond warnings.

“We shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking that warnings alone will be sufficient. And as time goes on, this situation will become worse and worse. Banks and financial institutions should also start considering the drastic measure of actively blocking users on Windows XP from using their online services entirely,” says Christopher Budd, Trend Micro’s threat communications manager.