The United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) on Wednesday revealed that critical systems that manage the country’s nuclear arsenal are run on computers manufactured in the 70’s that still use floppy disk drives for their storage. The country is spending around $60bn (£40.8bn) to maintain museum-ready computers, which many do not even know how to operate any more now.
The first example of an outdated system given in the report is in the Department of Defense (DoD), where the agency still uses 8-inch floppy disks in a computer system that’s used to operate and manage the US nuclear weapons system.
Though the DoD is planning to upgrade along with another system for crisis action planning and strategic mobilization, which uses somewhat newer technology, but which still runs on outdated versions like Windows Server 2008, 2009 Oracle 11g, which are programmed in Java.
Further, the Department of Treasury also uses low-level computer language developed in the 50’s to manage the Individual Master File, a system that “is the authoritative data source for individual taxpayer accounts where accounts are updated, taxes are assessed, and refunds are generated during the tax filing period”. Besides the risks of exposing critical US IT systems to cyber-attacks by using outdated technologies, the US is facing huge maintenance costs as well.
These old systems need more work than modern technologies, custom hardware, and special personnel that has the know-how to interact, fix, or patch such systems when needed.