The United States Department of Defense is now migrating to Windows 10 as part of a broader effort announced in collaboration with Microsoft, and the transition to the new operating system is projected to be finalized in the fall of this year.
In the meantime, however, there are lots of computers operated by the Pentagon that are still running older Windows versions, and according to officials, some are even powered by Windows 95 or 98.
Speaking about Pentagon’s efforts to boost security of its systems, Daryl Haegley, program manager for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations and Environment, has revealed that many of the critical computers are currently powered by unsupported Windows versions, including not only Windows XP (which is no longer getting updates since April 2014) but also releases that are more than 20 years old. “About 75 percent of the devices that are control systems are on Windows XP or other nonsupported operating systems,” he said, adding that these stats were collected after visits to different 15 military sites.
Haegley says there’s no reason to worry, though, adding that all these computers do not have an Internet connection, so they are harder to hack. This isn’t impossible, though, especially if these systems are part of larger networks where other computers are connected to the web. “A lot of these systems are still Windows 95 or 98, and that’s OK—if they’re not connected to the internet,” Haegley explained.
DefenseOne says that systems running Windows 95 or 98 feature sensors that connect to the Internet anyway, so they’re more or less vulnerable to attacks, and running old operating systems certainly doesn’t help. In the end, Haegley calls for the US DoD to expand its bug bounty programs and call for security researchers to look for vulnerabilities not only in its websites but also in critical systems that could be exposed to cyberattacks launched by other states. In 2016 US military invited pre-approved experts to hack the Pentagon.
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