IRS Pays Microsoft for Extended XP Support

 
 
By Pedro Hernandez  |  Posted 2014-04-14
 
 
 

Microsoft may have officially pulled the plug on Windows XP, but organizations that want to keep enduring the operating system on life support have to pay up. In the case of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS), it is taxpayers who are footing the bill.

The agency is paying Microsoft less than $500,000 to support its 58,000 Windows XP systems, according to an April 11 report in Computerworld. At less than $9 per PC, the figure not only falls well below estimates of millions of dollars that quickly made the rounds online, but also comes in far under the price businesses can expect to pay to keep their Windows XP systems bug-free as time drags on.

Businesses can expect to pay $200 per PC for Windows XP support this year, according to Sumir Karayi, CEO of 1E, an IT software and services firm. "This means that from April 2014, a company with 5000 computers still on Windows XP would be looking at a bill from Microsoft of $1 million for support alone," he told eWEEK.

The IRS had already switched 52,000 workstations over to Windows 7 ahead of the deadline, reported The Washington Post recently. The remaining Windows XP will have no impact on taxpayers' ability to file their returns, asserted the IRS.

Funding, not negligence, caused the agency to miss Microsoft's deadline, indicated IRS Commissioner John Koskinen during an April 7 budget hearing before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government. The IRS faces an estimated $300 million shortfall on IT projects, $30 million of which is required to upgrade the remaining Windows XP PCs to Windows 7. The IRS has an annual budget of approximately $11 billion and employs 90,000 workers.

Dire warnings from Microsoft and security professionals regarding the unsupported OS did not fall on deaf ears at the IRS. In his testimony, Koskinen said his agency is "very concerned" that not completing the transition away from Windows XP can have security implications and cause an "unstable environment" at the agency.

Microsoft stopped supporting the 12-year-old desktop OS on April 8, putting an end to the monthly tradition of issuing security patches and bug fixes for Windows XP. While XP users have no reason to panic yet, the future does not bode well for the OS.

Tim Rains, director of Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing Group, recently warned that even surfing the Web on a Windows XP system may soon compromise its security. "New exploits for Windows XP will likely be added to cybersecurity exploit kits that are sold/leased to attackers," he wrote in a Microsoft Security Blog post. Those kits will make it a trivial matter for attackers to pump out "malicious websites that try to install malware on systems that visit those sites," he added.

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