Windows 7 meets its end of support deadline on January 14, 2020. After that, Microsoft will offer quite an expensive support program that costs $50 per device. The Windows maker has just announced that the company will provide free security updates for federally certified voting systems running Windows 7 through the 2020 elections.
Windows 7 is still running on millions of devices worldwide, especially in government departments that are historically slower to adopt new technologies. The end of service deadline in January is especially bad news for the 2020 elections in the United States since the last Presidential election's entire focus was on foreign interference with many questioning the security of election systems.
In a post today, Microsoft admitted that it isn't possible for all the voting machines to be upgraded to the latest operating systems. "We also know that transitioning to machines running newer operating systems in time for the 2020 election may not be possible for a number of reasons, including the lengthy voting machine certification process - a process we are working with government officials to update and make more agile," the company wrote.
Extended Windows 7 security updates offer is open to US and other democratic countries
Under its Defending Democracy Program, Microsoft is extending security updates for voting systems running Windows 7. The offer isn't restricted to the United States as the company is also extending it to other countries.
We will do this through the end of 2020, both in the United States and in other democratic countries, as defined by the EIU Democracy Index, that have national elections in 2020 and express interest. We are also working with major manufacturers that have sold voting machines running Windows 7 to ensure any security updates provided to these systems are successful.
We are also announcing today that, as part of the Defending Democracy Program, we are proactively identifying and engaging election authorities that are Microsoft Azure customers to provide guidance and technical assistance in using the most advanced security features in Azure. We provided this service ahead of the 2018 election cycle and will again ahead of the 2020 cycle.
As for the non-voting devices used by election authorities, Microsoft has recommended to upgrade those to Windows 10 as these aren't "subject to the certification requirements that are a major barrier to upgrading voting machines." The company offers Fast Track guidance to help election authorities upgrade these PCs to Windows 10.
Today's announcement follows other efforts made by Microsoft and Google offering security tools to political parties and election officials. Microsoft's global Defending Democracy Program includes protecting campaigns from hacking, increasing political advertising transparency online, exploring technological solutions, and defending against disinformation campaigns.
Microsoft says software built in the era of Palm Pre cannot provide security like a modern OS
Microsoft continues to remind that Windows 7 is old and users need to get over it. The software maker said that it launched Windows 7 in 2009 - the year of Palm Pre and Twitter launch. "Floppy disks were still selling by the millions," Microsoft said.
"Software built for that era cannot provide the same level of security as a modern operating system like Windows 10."
- Government officials overseeing elections in 2020 can contact the Windows maker at Protect2020@microsoft.com about Windows 7 or Azure questions.