US government agencies still using unsupported Windows versions

By: Madeleine Dean
2 minute read

The US is the leading country in the world when it comes to technological innovation. The famous Silicon Valley is the place where the smartest brains of the world gather to set the tone for technological research and innovation. When it comes to US government agencies, things are not so advanced, to say the least.

Actually, government agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Compass Defense or the Department of Commerce are still using Windows Server 2003 technologies, which are no longer supported by Microsoft. For a quick reminder, Windows Server 2003 incorporated Windows XP features, and Microsoft ended support for its XP OS in April 2014. Other developers such as Opera and Dropbox will also end support for this dinosaur OS this year.

This situation is not uncommon among general Windows users. A recent report confirmed that Windows XP is still the third most popular desktop OS in the world. Using unsupported technologies makes systems vulnerable to threats. Since Microsoft has not rolled out any upgrades or security patches to its Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP for years , the systems running these technologies are easy prey for all the malware programs.

The situation is even more severe and urgent for government agencies given the data they are working with. Even the slightest breach in the Department of Homeland Security’s computer system could spell disaster for the whole world. What is even more surprising is that the US government is spending more than US$80 billion a year on IT.  To be more precise,  75%  of U.S. agencies’ IT budgets  is spent on maintaining existing or legacy systems.

Federal legacy IT investments are becoming increasingly obsolete: many use outdated software languages and hardware parts that are unsupported. Agencies reported using several systems that have components that are, in some cases, at least 50 years old. For example, the Department of Defense uses 8-inch floppy disks in a legacy system that coordinates the operational functions of the nation’s nuclear forces.

What about future actions? These agencies must be planning to upgrade their computer systems soon, right?

Coast Guard – Agency has general plans, including a migration to Windows 10, but did not provide dates on when this would happen.

Department of Homeland Security – The system […] relies on Windows 2003 servers and any changes would require recoding of many functions within its suite. […] The agency plans to transition to federal shared services in fiscal year 2018.

The conclusions of this report are rather disturbing and the fact that they were made public should be used as an incentive to upgrade the computer technologies used by US government agencies.

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