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IRS Misses XP Deadline, Pays Microsoft Millions For Patches 322

Posted by Soulskill
from the your-tax-dollars-at-work dept.
An anonymous reader writes "When Microsoft terminated official support for Windows XP on April 8th, many organizations had taken the six years of warnings to heart and migrated to another operating system. But not the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. Only 52,000 of their 110,000 Windows-powered computers have been upgraded to Windows 7. They'll now be forced to pay Microsoft for Custom Support. How much? Using Microsoft's standard rate of $200 per PC, it'll be $11.6 million for one year. That leaves $18.4 million of their $30 million budget to finish the upgrades themselves, which works out to $317 per computer."
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IRS Misses XP Deadline, Pays Microsoft Millions For Patches

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 12, 2014 @03:46PM (#46735293)

    right into the pocket of microsoft thanks to mismanagement

    • by Joce640k (829181) on Saturday April 12, 2014 @04:12PM (#46735461) Homepage

      Yep. It's a total waste of money.

      Those machines aren't going to implode because they don't get updates.

      Keep running them, keep on replacing them. Block all external web sites to employees (which they should be anyway).

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Block all external web sites to employees (which they should be anyway).

        Yeah, because it's totally inconceivable that an employee might need access to information that's not stored on the internal network.

        • by Darinbob (1142669) on Saturday April 12, 2014 @07:18PM (#46736517)

          So disconnect those XP boxes from any external access. Any information they need for their job can come from internal sites only, or they have special computers they can visit for the strange reason of needing to check the internet (this should be extremely rare). If they need to access the internet too much, then they put in a request for a better computer (this should be a tiny fraction of the staff). Remember, we've gone millenia without the internet.

      • by BoRegardless (721219) on Saturday April 12, 2014 @05:47PM (#46735975)

        But the IRS doesn't care. It just asks for more money from Congress to go after more citizens for more money. The IRS doesn't care about how inefficient it is. That is inherently what is wrong with a massively complex government system which is specifically designed to be complex.

        There are solutions for this, but it means dismantling the IRS and firing a lot of people, so how do you think we are going to do this. Similar to the quasi-governmental Post Office.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Nephandus (2953269)
          Good luck with that. Aside from the being caught cheating even by their own rules, which is impressive given how circular they are, that guy who actually managed to get them in court for their policy being unconstitutional was explicitly rejected on the basis of IRS policy itself, as in the Constitution only matters if IRS policy says so. Not being a lawyer, I'm still not sure why the judge said he raised good points, while the case was found against him by some IRS guy and not the judge. Apparently by some
        • by gtall (79522) on Sunday April 13, 2014 @10:48AM (#46739805)

          Nice fairy tale. The IRS had their budget cut and the chances of being audited is the lowest it has been in years, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/... [huffingtonpost.com].

          Now, you probably think this is a good thing, except that the sainted American people will do anything to cheat on their taxes. Whether you like it or not, much of higher and lower education rely on taxes, as does most fundamental research. But Congress has been cutting that as well because research grows on trees, right.

          And the problem isn't with the IRS, it is with the tax code. Congresses and Presidents have written that. The last simplification happened because Tip O'Neill and Ronald Reagan agreed to simplify it and rammed it through Congress, although it took them several years. The current crop of congresscritters cannot agree on where the sun rises, good luck in simplification.

      • Yep. It's a total waste of money.

        Those machines aren't going to implode because they don't get updates.

        Keep running them, keep on replacing them. Block all external web sites to employees (which they should be anyway).

        Do you really want your personal information on a vulnerable system where a Russian hacker can make a killing selling your identity? Do you still back that up in such a case?

      • by ttucker (2884057) on Saturday April 12, 2014 @07:43PM (#46736671)
        If a business tried to handle the information that the IRS handles with Windows XP, someone would end up in jail.
        • by lucm (889690)

          Yeah confidential data is never compromised in the private sector because companies are careful not to use XP, except Target. That includes Experian. Or Adobe. Or Sony. Or Apple. (etc.)

  • by grasshoppa (657393) <skennedy@tpno[ ].org ['-co' in gap]> on Saturday April 12, 2014 @03:47PM (#46735297) Homepage

    Shouldn't that result in the patches being released for anyone to use?

    AHAHAHAHA, sorry. Had to make the joke.

    • Windows XP did not instantly become unsafe on April 8, 2014 [futurepower.net], the date Microsoft calls the "end of life" for Windows XP.

      Governments and big corporations are often influenced by people with no technical knowledge. Because of their ignorance, governments have already paid Microsoft probably more than it costs to fix the few security defects found each year. However, the taxpayers of those governments will not be allowed to have the fixes. "End of life" is a way for Microsoft to make more money.

      It's like Toyota told all owners of older Toyota vehicles that the vehicles are unsafe now and owners must buy new vehicles or pay millions of dollars to keep them. Except its worse: Software doesn't have mechanical wear.

      This article contains tips about how to use any version of Microsoft Windows safely that can be shared with people you want to help. Unnecessary computer maintenance is an ugly way to make money.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by L4m3rthanyou (1015323)

        A better analogy would be for Toyota to stop manufacturing parts for very old cars, and most car manufacturers do just that. Aftermarket is more able to fill the void in that case, but it's the same concept. And let's be real, $200 scaled up to a car would be thousands, not millions. Software doesn't have "mechanical" wear, but it has ongoing discovery of security vulnerabilities that require maintenance from the vendor. Delivering that maintenance costs money.

        Even the newest systems that shipped with XP ar

        • by mpe (36238)
          Software doesn't have "mechanical" wear, but it has ongoing discovery of security vulnerabilities that require maintenance from the vendor. Delivering that maintenance costs money.

          Such vulnerabilities can also be introduced by "maintenance". Also they can't be easily related to some metric of usage or time, unlike mechanical "wear".
          • True on both points. However, It doesn't change the fact that software still "ages" in a way, and that software that works acceptably at one point in time may become unsafe to continue using at a later date. GP seems to think that the intangible nature of software means that its utility can't diminish over time.

            • Software never ages. It can run forever.

              However, yes updates do come into play depending on use. Citigroup has a 45 year old mainframe app to do its processing. There is no need to upgrade and the punchcards will lost many decades ago so it can never be updated.

        • Let me flip this?

          What can you do on a nice shiny new i5core Dell box that your XP system can not?

          Can you type faster? Can you think faster? Do webpages load up faster? Do pie charts in excel pop up quicker?

          Where are the productivity enhancements to pay for this investment?? ... I am waiting. That's right there is none. So it is not an asset. It is a cost center and an expense. This is why XP is still around.

          It works and the cost is already set. Instead of blowing millions like my employer is upgrading how a

      • by Mr_Silver (213637)

        Because of their ignorance, governments have already paid Microsoft probably more than it costs to fix the few security defects found each year.

        Correction, it wasn't ignorance that caused Governments and other organisations to end up running late on project with a fixed delivery date at least five years in advance.

        It was incompetence.

      • by am 2k (217885)

        Windows XP did not instantly become unsafe on April 8, 2014, the date Microsoft calls the "end of life" for Windows XP.

        No, it has been unsafe for at least a few years already. Windows XP does not support any encryption that's still considered secure.

        • "Windows XP does not support any encryption that's still considered secure."

          Not only is it not secure, it has been EXTREMELY buggy. People have lost their files to Microsoft's encryption bugs. Also, the U.S. government believes it can force executives to do anything it says, and keep that secret from taxpayers.

          It is best to use only GPG [gnupg.org] and TrueCrypt [truecrypt.org] for encryption, or other open source software. Open source software is much more difficult to manipulate.
  • Audit time (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 12, 2014 @04:01PM (#46735391)

    So the IRS missed a deadline they knew was coming... I wonder what they would do to any of us in a similar but different situation?

    • So the IRS missed a deadline they knew was coming... I wonder what they would do to any of us in a similar but different situation?

      he IRS isn't the only SNAFU out there by any stretch of the imagination. They are in good company along with many members of the much vaunted and ever efficient private sector when it comes to missing this particular deadline.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I work at a large public organization that runs multiple large hospitals and a throng of clinics. We have not completed the XP -> 7 transition in time and are paying Microsoft for this extended support. Upgrading tens of thousands of systems with a myriad of specialized software isn't as easy as upgrading your home computer.

    We must wait for vendors to upgrade their applications, ensure the updates work, and train users; this delayed us deploying new systems. Since medical applications aren't sexy nor che

  • by wisnoskij (1206448) on Saturday April 12, 2014 @04:14PM (#46735483) Homepage

    Every corporation and agency is independently paying millions and millions to have them continue to patch their computers. I would not wager a guess at how much it costs to continue producing patches, but I cannot imagine it is more than a handful of full time devs.

    • by gerddie (173963)
      Indeed, and it's a real shame since with this money they could have paid some developers full-time to bring ReactOS [reactos.org] to speed and make it a viable replacement for XP.
    • by Mr_Silver (213637)

      Every corporation and agency is independently paying millions and millions to have them continue to patch their computers. I would not wager a guess at how much it costs to continue producing patches, but I cannot imagine it is more than a handful of full time devs.

      You appear to have overlooked a testing team in your planning! The regression testing on the various h/w, s/w and language variants won't be small either.

      Unfortunately on large scale projects, it's not good enough to fix the bug, check if it seem

      • And you would expect hundreds of QA engineers to be employed for this task? (lets not forget they already have everything in place to continue patching and testing)

  • What does it matter?

  • It's cheaper for the IRS to pay the dime to continue to make patches so that they will be available to countless others who are caught with their pants down, costing far more in the economy and thus ultimately reducing revenue headed to the IRS.

    They might actually make a profit off from doing this.

    • by gerddie (173963)

      It's cheaper for the IRS to pay the dime to continue to make patches so that they will be available to countless others who are caught with their pants down, [...]

      What makes you think these patches will be made available for these countless others? Microsoft will bill very single entity out there for the very same patches, that's quite certain.

  • About XP . . . (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mmell (832646) <mmell@hotmail.com> on Saturday April 12, 2014 @04:50PM (#46735671)
    I have many non-technically gifted friends. I've heard at least two of them state "XP is great - I can make it do whatever I want, better than any other version of Windows." Even among my (non-techie) friends, the prevalent attitude is "Why should I upgrade?" - several have made it clear to me that they don't care if their machines are botted, as long as their games run okay. As non-techies, they insist that they're not at risk for identity theft, often saying "I don't do banking/online shopping/anything involving money or credit", and in general refuse to change their minds (and yes - when I failed, I've tried bringing in other technically aware people to try their hand at convincing them. I only convinced my wife by force, not a very good way to go).

    What makes XP so great to them? The ease with which software may be installed and configured. The stability of the platform to play Grand Theft Auto, et. al. What makes XP so terrible to technically knowledgeable people? The ease with which software may be installed and configured. The stability of the platform to provide elevated privileges and get an open connection on port 113 and run Sasser, et. al.

    • "What makes XP so terrible to technically knowledgeable people? The ease with which software may be installed and configured."

      I have never seen an XP limited user be able to install software. The problem is that the default user has administrator privileges, as I explain [futurepower.net] in the section One of Microsoft's methods of making money: Provide safety methods only professionals are likely to know. I regard that as intentional abuse by Microsoft.
    • Re:About XP . . . (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Billly Gates (198444) on Saturday April 12, 2014 @06:54PM (#46736347) Journal

      Windows XP is the best Win OS ever made.

      It works. It has the best gui. Windows explorer isn't crippled. Apps just work. Websites render just right. Updates do not break it unlike 7 or 8. It works well with 512 megs of ram.

      If it aint broke DON"T FIX IT!

      The reason they like XP is they had win98 and WinME and remember the crapola experiences, crashes, re-installing the OS, etc. XP was the first OS which just worked. Why change?

      People become conservative as a result. Our grandparents who grew up during World War II and the Great depression became conservative and AMERICA IS GREAT during the 1950's when good times hit. Same is true with XP. It came from an era of bad apples preceeding it. Now look at Windows 8 and Vista which came later?

      Can you blame them of being afraid of change?

      XP works just fine and they do not want a cell phone os and risk nightmares of getting things to work and performance problems. It finally works so leave it and they need a reason to change. There is no reason to change what works right?

  • let the lawsuits commence...
  • by iamacat (583406) on Saturday April 12, 2014 @05:43PM (#46735957)

    From the assumption that IRS will pay standard joe off the street rate to Microsoft, to impossibility of running XP without support, not much in this article passes the muster of common sense. Chrome and Thunderbird are still well supported and secure, and that's all IRS employees should need in terms of accessing Internet. Everything else would be in-house applications which can be secured on server side, so it should be Ok even if they still have run IE6.

    As for employees that don't follow instructions, there is nothing to keep them from installing freepr0n.exe on Win7.

  • by Jodka (520060) on Saturday April 12, 2014 @05:50PM (#46735999)

    So how could the IRS fund their Microsoft Custom Support? By seizing tax refunds. [hotair.com]

  • by gnasher719 (869701) on Saturday April 12, 2014 @05:58PM (#46736059)
    The amount mentioned is not what the IRS pays. It is what the article assumes, based on number of PCs running XP and an estimatd average price of $200 per PC. But contracts are negotiated individually. The British government pays less than $10 million for all their computers, which includes about 650,000 PCs running XP in the health service, more than 10 times as many as in the US IRS.
  • Fantasyland (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jonnythan (79727) on Saturday April 12, 2014 @06:01PM (#46736075) Homepage

    If the IRS does decide to pay Microsoft for continued support of XP, the chances of it paying the standard $200 per PC rate is effectively zero.

    The numbers in the summary are total fantasy.

  • that's that the IRS will actually be paying? Yes XP is being deprecated (good thing), yes MS is putting a price on the support of those unable to do so (good thing), no the IRS isn't going to be paying that.
  • by plopez (54068) on Saturday April 12, 2014 @06:32PM (#46736241) Journal

    Hypothetical situation. I am an IT director. I track trillions in revenues and hundreds of billions in taxes. Do I 1)
    switch to a new system with unknown security risks and associated costs in upgrading in house systems and applications?
    or
    2) Do I stick with a true and tried system for a few tens of millions more?

    No brainer. Stick with the devil you know. This is not some happy little mobile app like the "Annoyed Nematode" you are dealing with the financial futures of both the US government and each and every person who must file taxes.

    • The problem there is that it's not actually a solution. All it does is delays the need to find a real solution, which will cost roughly as much then as it does now.
    • "...switch to a new system with unknown security risks..."

      Yeah, that Windows 7 has only been out since 2009 and practically nobody uses it.

  • Purely chosen randomly, of course.

  • XP as bad IT test (Score:5, Interesting)

    by EmperorOfCanada (1332175) on Saturday April 12, 2014 @08:15PM (#46736839)
    I think that any organization still using XP has failed an IT test. This does not mean that the IT people suck but that some aspect of IT sucks. It could be that the IT people can't proactively spend money to avoid expenses such as this and can only spend money when they have to. This is broken. I wouldn't be surprised if some dolts in these organizations are now saying that the budget to upgrade from XP has been eaten by these licensing costs.

    What I have seen before is that some minor OS upgrade comes along and the various parties say, "Hey we need a minor upgrade to our software to keep up." this is then refused so after the next OS update they say, "He we pretty desperately need a medium sized upgrade to catch up." this is refused. This goes on and on until basically they are screaming, "We MUST upgrade now and the upgrade is a major overhaul of how everything works." then the worst thing in the world happens, they agree. The problem being that some sleazy mega-sized consulting company comes in and starts throwing around "best-practices" and $50 million later a completely useless system that is actually far worse than the 12 year old pile of crap they have is born. Then another $50 million is spent getting it to barely work.

    The probable cost to have had a continuous stream of upgrades in the first place? Maybe $500,000 per year.
  • Microsoft should charge them triple, and propose confiscating all assets for such a mistake. After all, that's what the IRS would do.

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