Microsoft will continue to provide some Windows 7 machines with security updates beyond the January 2020 end-of-support date, and voting systems are among them, the company has announced.
On January 14, 2020, Microsoft will cease to deliver security updates for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 systems as part of its normal update schedule. It will, however, provide such updates to customers paying for Extended Security Support.
Voting systems running Windows 7, however, will continue to receive such updates for free through the 2020 elections, the company has just announced. These security patches will be provided as part of Microsoft’s Defending Democracy Program to federally certified voting systems.
Windows 7 is already 10 years old and Microsoft believes that software built for that era lacks the security levels modern operating systems can deliver. The tech giant also says it has fulfilled its commitment to supporting Windows 7 for 10 years, and that most of its customers have already migrated to Windows 10.
“As we head into the 2020 elections, we know there is a relatively small but still significant number of certified voting machines in operation running on Windows 7. We also know that transitioning to machines running newer operating systems in time for the 2020 election may not be possible,” Microsoft notes.
One of the reasons these systems cannot be upgraded in due time for the 2020 elections is the lengthy voting machine certification process.
Extended security updates will be provided for free to federally certified voting systems running Windows 7, through the end of 2020, Microsoft says. The company is also working with manufacturers to ensure security updates are successfully delivered to their voting machines running Windows 7.
The updates will be available “in the United States and in other democratic countries, as defined by the EIU Democracy Index, which have national elections in 2020 and express interest,” the company reveals.
Aimed at protecting political campaigns, parties, the election community and democracy-focused nongovernmental organizations, Microsoft’s Defending Democracy Program provides tools such as the AccountGuard service (at no additional cost) and ElectionGuard (free and open source).
Now, as part of the Program, Microsoft is “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.”
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