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The Navy is paying Microsoft millions to keep updating Windows XP

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Windows XP has been many people’s operating system of choice for more than a decade, with only Windows 7 surpassing it in market share. This is despite the fact that Windows XP was released almost fourteen years ago. It stands to reason that the operating system would have remained popular for years to come if Microsoft hadn’t ended official support for it last year, which means that any exploits or other vulnerabilities that hackers discover will remain unpatched. This is obviously pretty dangerous for users, which is Microsoft urged the remaining Windows XP users to switch over to  a newer operating system, even going so far as to offer free upgrades.

That was on the consumer side of things. While upgrading your computer’s operating system is pretty annoying, it only takes a little bit of time and effort. For companies and large organizations, however, the process is infinitely more difficult, as these groups can have anywhere from dozens to tens of thousands of computers running on Windows XP, all of which will need to be upgraded to a new operating system.

It’s pretty staggering how much of the world’s infrastructure and other systems are reliant on Windows XP, which is why Microsoft has decided to keep providing security patches to various groups that have yet to transition away from Windows XP, government agencies in particular. Being a business though, it’s not like Microsoft is doing this out of the kindness of its heart. Naturally, the company has been receiving compensation for its work through multi-million dollar contracts.

One such contract is with the United States Navy, for which Microsoft is receiving $9.1 million to continue providing security patches for Exchange 2003, Office 2003, Windows Server 2003, and Windows XP. All of this is in order to keep somewhere around 100,000 of the Navy’s computers afloat so that the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command can continue running without needing to worry about dangerous exploits or vulnerabilities.

“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. “Until those applications and programs are modernized or phased out, this continuity of services is required to maintain operational effectiveness. A plan for migrating to current and supported capabilities has been developed and is being executed.”

The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command is responsible for running the Navy’s communications and information networks, which is probably the last thing the military would ever want to put at risk. With that in mind, spending $9.1 million on some security patches doesn’t seem like a silly decision. Another solution would be to just upgrade your software, but considering how the Navy has been in the process of transitioning away from Windows XP since 2013 but still has around 100,000 computers running on the operating system, it’s clear that the transition process will take time. Microsoft’s entire contract with the Navy could extend into 2017 and end up netting the company $30.8 million.

“Without this continued support, vulnerabilities to these systems will be discovered, with no patches to protect the systems,” the Navy clarified in an unclassified document. “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.”


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