10 percent of U.S. government PCs will still use Windows XP after support ends

With just over three weeks to go before Microsoft releases its last software updates for Windows XP to the general public, a new report claims that 10 percent of the PCs used by the U.S. government will still be running the 12 year old OS when that April 8th support deadline is reached.

The Washington Post reports that even at 10 percent, that still means hundreds of thousands of government PCs will be using XP. That includes computers that are connected to classified military and diplomatic networks.

Even though Microsoft has been issuing warnings about the end of XP support for years, it appears that at least some members of the government felt that the company should have extended its deadline. The story quotes an unnamed U.S. State Department official as saying, "For all the money we collectively give Microsoft, they were not too receptive to extending the deadline. There was some grumbling that they were not willing to extend."

In fact, the report states, via unnamed sources, that in April 2012, Homeland Security and the White House’s Office of Management and Budget agencies created a draft of a plan to warn government agencies to stop using XP, but that plan was never acted on.

As Microsoft is doing with the U.K.'s National Health Service, as well as major banks, it will be offering special extended XP support contracts to the U.S government. However, some agencies are reportedly not going to sign up for those plans, believing them to not be necessary in terms of expenditures.

One of the reasons why the government has been so slow in transitioning off of XP is that many agencies use custom government applications on their PCs that run just on that OS. However, Microsoft claims that the government's transition off of XP will mostly be completed by the end of 2014.

Source: Washington Post | Image via Microsoft

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26 Comments

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Microsoft has an outrageous pattern of promoting a new operating system rather than fixing its existing one.

Their threat to stop all support for XP would be a perfect tripwire for our government to pursue antimonopoly action against Microsoft. Unless it isn't “our” government, but “their” government!

What I don't get is why developers continue to employ workarounds that prevent their software from running in newer operating systems. When Windows 7 hit there were almost NO reports of anything other than drivers and antivirus programs that had any problems with the update. What is so special (or poorly designed) about these applications that they can't run on Windows 7 or 8?

Most likely they don't support running as a user (require admin rights) and break with UAC. OR, it's just the developers or decision makers saying "it doesn't work" or "we don't support it" when in reality it works just fine. I see a lot of that with corporate IT. Software that works just fine on newer operating systems is called "incompatible" because IT hasn't "tested it" or "won't support it".

We have a few clients that have software installed that doesn't work with UAC. The first thing the software support guys do when installing on a new PC is to turn UAC off, really annoys me!

Often because the programs/applications made are build by the 'cheapest' that could do it. And regularly those are not the best or proper coders. And have their "Own style", which goes against Windows guidelines.

MS has been promoting programming guidelines for Windows since the 90s, most are simple "Use the %APPDATA% folder for data", "do not mess with files in your own program folder" etc.
Simple things
Even on Linux the guidelines are pretty similar, but nooo..

Yeah, the best are developers that use 'bugs' or 'exploits' in Windows to do certain tasks while more often than not, there's an API for it.
And of course those flaws get patched in updates or new windows'.

There's plenty of systems like that on XP SP1-2 or no SP at all. Or even older systems.

I'm not surprised, since I happen to work in a similar area. There are applications that can't be moved to Windows 7 but are mission-critical, they've never been updated and the cost to update would be prohibitive. So until new tools can be written, tested, debugged and validated, those older programs will need to stay running... which means Windows XP will need to stay working as well.

Or would you rather have a large satellite come crashing down uncontrolled because the program crashed under Windows 7 while it had worked fine in XP?

Oh, and just as an additional datapoint, I had to recently create VMWare images for our classified labs that still need Windows XP for applications... so that they could test on Windows 7 machines. Since all we'll be able to obtain is Windows 7 ready systems, the VMWare image is to give them some extra time to develop those new tools.

Tal Greywolf said,
There are applications that can't be moved to Windows 7 but are mission-critical, they've never been updated and the cost to update would be prohibitive.

That is part of the problem. The "if it isn't broke, don't fix it" mentality is what got them to this point. Whether it is broken or not, you still have to maintain it.

article said
The story quotes an unnamed U.S. State Department official as saying, "For all the money we collectively give Microsoft, they were not too receptive to extending the deadline. There was some grumbling that they were not willing to extend."
I guess it would have been more shocking if the US Government had completed their migration off of XP. This is just par for the course.

They already extended it too many times already. I guess the Gov thinks they should just keep supporting XP in perpetuity like some of the members here.

I know this is going to sound like a random question but the Media Player, Movie Maker and even the Internet Explorer Icon...is this a screenshot from a Whistler build?

Max Norris said,
Running classified diplomatic and military networks on an EOL'd operating system. What could possibly go wrong with that.

they will still get security updates for XP until 2017, but they will have to pay Microsoft for this.

likewise, WindowsXP will still be used in nuclear power plants and other critical infrastructure systems for years. But that's fine if the networks are isolated from the internet. (anyway even before the end of the XP support, these systems are typically never patched, so even if XP didn't get paid extended support until 2017, the lack of security updates would not have a significant impact)

link8506 said,
likewise, WindowsXP will still be used in nuclear power plants and other critical infrastructure systems for years. But that's fine if the networks are isolated from the internet.

It's not just the Internet they need to worry about... people do break in and do naughty things too, it's happened before. Disgruntled employee strolls into that nuclear power plant, takes advantage of an unpatched vulnerability to get root privileges to an important system and then has their way with it. "Pulling the plug" and burying your head in the sand may be acceptable for some home users if that's their thing, but something that's high on the critical list... not so much.

Max Norris said,

It's not just the Internet they need to worry about... people do break in and do naughty things too, it's happened before. Disgruntled employee strolls into that nuclear power plant, takes advantage of an unpatched vulnerability to get root privileges to an important system and then has their way with it. "Pulling the plug" and burying your head in the sand may be acceptable for some home users if that's their thing, but something that's high on the critical list... not so much.

as I said, the XP workstations used to manage critical infrastructures are already not using all the security updates available.

a disgruntled employee in a critical infrastructure can do harm in so many other ways, and when you see that industrial controlling devices are often vulnerable to flaws that can't be patched, XP is probably the least of our worries

Max Norris said,

It's not just the Internet they need to worry about... people do break in and do naughty things too, it's happened before. Disgruntled employee strolls into that nuclear power plant, takes advantage of an unpatched vulnerability to get root privileges to an important system and then has their way with it. "Pulling the plug" and burying your head in the sand may be acceptable for some home users if that's their thing, but something that's high on the critical list... not so much.

If a person has physical access to a Windows machine they can do anything they want. Windows passwords are easily bypassed; you can get admin access to any account with no trouble at all, no security flaws needed. Face it, Windows "security" is a complete joke.

Dubstep Nixon said,
Windows passwords are easily bypassed; you can get admin access to any account with no trouble at all, no security flaws needed. Face it, Windows "security" is a complete joke.

Erm if I have physical access to any operating system a password can be cracked.. OphCrack for Windows, John the Ripper for Unix/Linux/VMS/etc plus plenty of other toys. You're completely missing the point, but I suppose "Derp Microsoft" works too.

Dubstep Nixon said,

If a person has physical access to a Windows machine they can do anything they want. Windows passwords are easily bypassed; you can get admin access to any account with no trouble at all, no security flaws needed. Face it, Windows "security" is a complete joke.


Windows computers usually don't run stand alone. On a non-secured stand-alone Windows (any) you can bypass the password with physical access... Or on any system for that matter.

But a Windows system with bios/uefi protection properly set up (and which is not flashable by removing CHMOS battery or whatever) running in a secured network with Active Directory services... I can easily setup a Windows PC with Out Of The Box programs/tools proved with Windows XP and up, which you will have a very tough time breaking into getting admin/root access.

And thats just me, what do you think on those XP systems on nuclear power plants and what not, like you can do something untraceable and without someone noticing? On a properly secured network, the moment you attempt to access any location within that network without unauthorized access will give enough bells and whistles.

It's not as easy as you make it sound if even 1 security expert helped setting up the system and its network.

Max Norris said,

Erm if I have physical access to any operating system a password can be cracked.. OphCrack for Windows, John the Ripper for Unix/Linux/VMS/etc plus plenty of other toys. You're completely missing the point, but I suppose "Derp Microsoft" works too.

You don't need to crack them, you can boot to the Windows Repair disc, rename one file and then change the password using the command line, takes less than five minutes. I like Microsoft and I only use Windows but be honest it has the worst security of any OS out there.

Dubstep Nixon said,

You don't need to crack them, you can boot to the Windows Repair disc, rename one file and then change the password using the command line, takes less than five minutes. I like Microsoft and I only use Windows but be honest it has the worst security of any OS out there.


This can be easily secured.

Dubstep Nixon said,

You don't need to crack them, you can boot to the Windows Repair disc, rename one file and then change the password using the command line, takes less than five minutes. I like Microsoft and I only use Windows but be honest it has the worst security of any OS out there.

You can only do that if the machine isn't taking advantage of any security features at all. That's very easy to prevent.

Windows has very good security. It's just often not taken advantage of.