A new report from the Government Accountability Office reveals that multiple U.S. government agencies still run on decades-old technology—the most alarming of which is the revelation that nuclear operations are still carried out with 8-inch floppy disks.
According to the report, which you can read here, multiple government agencies operate off of information technology systems decades old. The Department of Treasury holds the oldest IT systems reported as being around 56 years old.
The big news revealed in the GAO report is the Department of Defense IT system’s reported age being 53 years old, utilizing a system that still requires the use of 8-inch floppy disks. The report defines plans to “update its data storage solutions, port extension processors, portable terminals and desktop terminals by the end of fiscal year 2017.”
While it may sound shocking that our nation’s nuclear defense strategy relies on outdated technology, it’s not as simple as the government just being unwilling to update systems.
It’s likely that, in the specific case of the Department of Defense’s nuclear program, the same old systems were kept around for security purposes. The systems in use have likely been hardened against EMP strikes—meaning the systems wouldn’t be wiped out by an electromagnetic pulse—and have undergone other complex security fail-safes to keep our nuclear program operational.
It’s also wise to maintain and train the system and its users on complex outdated, or perhaps simply out of use, technology to further strengthen its defense against hackers or other attackers who are more likely to be unfamiliar with the operations and processes required.
Still, the Department of Defense is only one agency on the list using outdated technology, much of which the GAO report suggests needs a critical upgrade:
The GAO also found that around 75 percent of the federal financing for IT systems was used for operations and maintenance—spending which has increased over the past seven years further diminishing the financing to modernize and upgrade the agency systems in question.
Overall the report highlights a lack of investment by multiple government agencies in modernizing and enhancing vital information systems within our government and suggests that actions be taken before these systems have “outlived their effectiveness.”
Via The Verge