Windows 95 and 98 still power Pentagon’s critical systems

jayar.decenella@gmail.com' By: Jay Decenella
2 minute read

If you think the Pentagon has the most modern computer systems in the world, think again. While the United States Defense Department currently transitions to the Windows 10 ecosystem in partnership with Microsoft, a great majority of the defense agency’s computers still run legacy versions of Windows including Windows 95 and 98, according to Defense One.

That means despite the Pentagon’s extensive effort to beef up its security, many of its computers are powered by unsupported versions of Microsoft’s OS for desktop. Such is the revelation from no less than Daryl Haegley, program manager for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations and Environment.

Unsupported versions of Windows include Windows XP and other editions that date back 20 years ago. Haegley said that nearly 75% of control system devices run Windows XP or other older versions. The figure is based on data gathered from 15 military sites in the United States. It is easy to recall that Microsoft ended support for Windows XP in 2014. Nevertheless, the Defense Department is paying Microsoft to continue providing support for the legacy OS.

The good thing is that those computers no longer connect to the Internet, which means it would be difficult for hackers to infiltrate those systems. But it is not enough guarantee that those systems are free from cyber attacks. That is especially so if those computers belong to a larger network of computers that are connected to the Internet. In fact, as DefenseOne reports, Pentagon’s critical infrastructure equipped with internet-connected sensors run on antiquated operating systems. That means the systems that run those sensors make the defense agency vulnerable to hackers.

Haegley is now pushing for an expansion to the Pentagon’s bug bounty programs in order to tap the brightest security researchers to identify vulnerabilities in its critical systems.

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