recommended reading

Feds Aren't Worried About Windows XP Vulnerabilities

Ted S. Warren/AP file photo

Federal agencies do not anticipate trouble when Microsoft early next month stops providing updated fixes for security flaws in the Windows XP operating system, top Obama administration officials say.

The Washington Post reported that about 10 percent of government computers, out of several million, will still be running XP when support ends on April 8. According to the newspaper, the problem is urgent, because vulnerabilities in the XP computers could allow intruders into larger networks. 

But White House officials say they feel individual agencies are prepared for the expiration of XP support and don’t see a need to take top-down action.

“Agencies have made significant progress in moving off Windows XP, and the federal government is ahead of the private sector in this regard," a White House Office of Management and Budget official said. During conversations with agency personnel, "we have received no indication that agencies require any additional OMB intervention at this time." 

Banks have been scrambling to upgrade the 2.2 million XP-based ATMs still using the 12-year-old operating system. According to Reuters, the cost of special deals with Microsoft for extended support or upgrades could be about $100 million for each of Britain's main banks.

Some agencies have decided it is cheaper or more efficient to stick with XP. Typically, this is because their systems are not connected to the Internet – where viruses spread -- or are impossible to overhaul. 

Agencies continuing to use XP "have put in place contingency plans to ensure that the risks associated with maintaining XP are mitigated," the OMB official said. "This is not an approach that is unique to the government – the private sector is approaching the migration in a similar way."

Administration officials could not tabulate the total cost of the changeover. 

The Homeland Security Department, tasked with overseeing governmentwide cybersecurity, has been providing agencies with free "continuous diagnostics" tools to help pinpoint vulnerabilities in their systems. This aid should allow agencies to focus time and money on “resolving the most significant weaknesses first, including the updating of software as necessary," DHS spokesman S.Y. Lee said.

"As a matter of law and policy, all agencies are responsible for the security of their networks and systems, and that includes addressing these known software vulnerabilities through ongoing patching," he said.

At Lee’s own department, a switch to Windows 7 is expected to complete before April 8, according to DHS officials.  

Microsoft's website states that, after April 8, XP users will stop receiving updates that "help protect your PC from harmful viruses, spyware, and other malicious software, which can steal your personal information.” Also, the reliability of Windows might wane without the installation of new drivers for hardware and other tools, company officials said.

But Microsoft officials seem confident that federal customers will be shielded from hackers come April 9.

“Because we are tightly working with our customers, and because of the types of systems that have yet to make the move off XP, we do not feel there is a substantially greater risk for the federal government on April 9 than there is on April 7,” Mark Williams, Microsoft’s chief security officer for federal systems, told The Post. “That being said, at the end of the day, it’s important to remember that the most safe system is a modern one.”

Threatwatch Alert

Network intrusion

Florida’s Concealed Carry Permit Holders Names Exposed

See threatwatch report


Close [ x ] More from Nextgov

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Modernizing IT for Mission Success

    Surveying Federal and Defense Leaders on Priorities and Challenges at the Tactical Edge

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • Effective Ransomware Response

    This whitepaper provides an overview and understanding of ransomware and how to successfully combat it.

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.