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Microsoft Offers Free Windows 7 Security Updates for 2020 US Elections

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An Associated Press evaluation previously found that the widespread majority of 10,000 election jurisdictions in the US use Windows 7 or an older operating gadget to create ballots, application vote casting machines, tally votes and document counts.

Windows 7 reaches its "cease of life" on January 14, that means Microsoft stops providing unfastened technical support and producing "patches" to restore software program vulnerabilities, which hackers can make the most. Cash-strapped election officials are scrambling to cope with this problem and what is essentially a one-12 months extension on additional prices.

The promise of free updates does no longer cope with the cost of setting them in vicinity or the time and value of certifying such adjustments to a vote casting gadget. Fixing a new vulnerability requires that the organizations resubmit the vote casting device for recertification, that could take weeks or maybe months.

At a US Election Assistance Commission discussion board last month, Microsoft's Ginny Badanes, who heads its Defending Democracy Program, stated that election directors have to not be pressured to make the difficult choice of "the usage of election systems with recognised vulnerabilities or applying protection patches and, in so doing, taking their structures out of certification."

The commission develops vote casting gadget suggestions.

In a blog submit Friday, Microsoft's vice president for protection and trust, Tom Burt, stated the agency is operating with government officers to try and streamline the prolonged certification system.

Even if that takes place, making the fixes remains tough due to the fact election structures cannot legally be modified, for instance, whilst administering military absentee ballots 45 days earlier than the election.

"If an critical patch comes out three to 4 weeks before an election, it causes us to attend to enforce because we cannot intrude within the election system that is already in motion," said Louisiana's top election legit, R. Kyle Ardoin, at the commission forum.

The fee, in a announcement, praised Microsoft's move.

"Election administrators and advocates had rightly voiced difficulty that budget boundaries could hinder their capacity to pay for extended Windows 7 support and will result in election protection demanding situations," the fee stated. "Voters can now solid their ballots with self belief."

Maria Dill Benson, a spokeswoman for the National Association of Secretaries of State, said in an electronic mail that "receiving this assist could be a massive assist to many."

Critics say the state of affairs is an instance of what can manifest when non-public groups, with commercial pursuits, in the end determine the security of election structures with a lack of federal necessities or oversight.

Kevin Skoglund, chief technologist for Citizens for Better Elections, said the extension of aid became helpful, however did now not address the bigger problems of the slow certification system and eventual labor charges.

Nor, he said, does it "alternate the truth that scarce federal, state, and local greenbacks are being spent on almost-expired software program."

ES&S, the kingdom's largest vote casting structures dealer, does no longer have a federally certified vote casting gadget with the modern day, Windows 10 operating gadget in the marketplace. Such a system became currently submitted for federal certification.

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