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Summary

The US Department of Defense (DoD) has directed all DoD agencies to standardize on Windows 10 in a move to help improve its cybersecurity posture, lower the cost of IT, and simplify its operating environment. Starting in February 2016, DoD agencies will begin upgrading approximately four million devices and systems, with the goal of completing the exercise within one year.

US DoD responds to cybersecurity threats and attacks

The Windows 10 upgrade program announced by the US DoD forms part of the country's "Cybersecurity National Action Plan." With an overall budget of $3.1bn, the federal chief information security officer is set to drive these changes across the US government at a pace that is, one assumes, commensurate with current attack and threat levels. It will be interesting to see what effect this change has on other organizations, as business and IT leaders assess their own cybersecurity measures.

Mainstream support of Windows 7, currently the oldest supported desktop version of Windows, ended in January 2015, but it still has a reasonable shelf life, with "extended support" lasting until January 2020. Windows 8/8.1 remains in mainstream support until 2018, and thereafter extended support until January 2023. However, the US president's cybersecurity advisors clearly don't think either operating system is secure or resilient enough for its environment.

The announcement by the DoD is significant because large enterprises, especially government organizations, are traditionally late adopters of new versions of the Windows operating system, preferring to let others find the bugs and incompatibilities first. But not this time, because with an estimated four million devices and systems to upgrade, DoD agency IT professionals will be upgrading over 10,000 computers per day, every day, for the next year.

Windows 10 Enterprise edition promises organizations enhanced levels of IT security, ranging from new technologies that protect user credentials and their computer hardware to new IT management features that address information privacy and data leakage issues. However, some of the enterprise data protection (EDP) features designed for Windows 10 Enterprise are still in a "prerelease" phase and have yet to be tested at scale. So all eyes will be on the US DoD and its agencies as it puts Windows 10 to the test.

Appendix

Further reading

"Boosting enterprise productivity, security, and mobility with Windows 10," IT0021-000140 (December 2015)

"Windows 10 gets its first update, but is it enterprise-ready?," IT0021-000127 (November 2015)

2016 Trends to Watch: Security, IT0022-000522 (October 2015)

"The cybersecurity arms race will escalate in 2016," IT0018-001489 (October 2015)

"Cybersecurity breaches are snowballing; how will the industry respond?," TE0006-001108 (August 2015)

"Cybersecurity industry growth requires collaboration and skilled professionals," TE0005-000707 (April 2015)

Author

Richard Edwards, Principal Research Analyst, Enterprise Productivity & Mobility

richard.edwards@ovum.com

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