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The US Navy’s warfare systems command just paid millions to stay on Windows XP

The U.S. Navy is paying Microsoft millions of dollars to keep up to 100,000 computers afloat because it has yet to transition away from Windows XP.

The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, which runs the Navy’s communications and information networks, signed a US$9.1 million contract earlier this month for continued access to security patches for Windows XP, Office 2003, Exchange 2003 and Windows Server 2003.
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The entire contract could be worth up to $30.8 million and extend into 2017.
The first three of those products have been deemed obsolete
by Microsoft, and Windows Server 2003 will reach its end of life on July
14. As a result, Microsoft has stopped issuing free security updates
but will continue to do so on a paid basis for customers like the Navy
that are still using those products.
The Navy began a
transition away from XP in 2013, but as of May this year it still had
approximately 100,000 workstations running XP or the other software.
“The
Navy relies on a number of legacy applications and programs that are
reliant on legacy Windows products,” said Steven Davis, a spokesman for
the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command in San Diego. “Until those
applications and programs are modernized or phased out, this continuity
of services is required to maintain operational effectiveness.”
Davis
wouldn’t provide more details about the systems or their use, citing
cybersecurity policy, but an unclassified Navy document says the
Microsoft applications affect “critical command and control systems” on
ships and land-based legacy systems. Affected systems are connected to
NIPRnet, the U.S. government’s IP network for non-classified
information, and SIPRnet, the network for classified information.
“A plan for migrating to current and supported capabilities has been developed and is being executed,” Davis said.
Continuing to use the obsolete systems without the Microsoft contract would be risky.
“Without
this continued support, vulnerabilities to these systems will be
discovered, with no patches to protect the systems,” the Navy document
says. “The resulting deterioration will make the U.S. Navy more
susceptible to intrusion … and could lead to loss of data integrity,
network performance and the inability to meet mission readiness of
critical networks.”
The Navy isn’t alone in still relying
on Windows XP. Approximately 10 percent of desktop PCs accessing
websites using the StatCounter traffic reporting service during the
current month were running Windows XP, giving it a market share just
above that of Apple’s OS X. Data from Net Applications puts XP’s current
share at just over 14 percent.

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