TSA and Social Security race to Windows 10

They've hit a few snags, but the two agencies are nevertheless hoping to complete an upgrade to end all Windows upgrades within the month.

Shutterstock image. Copyright: T.Dallas

The Transportation Security Administration and the Social Security Administration are both speeding to implement an upgrade that could, they hope, spell the end of outdated operating system charges.

"We're planning for TSA to be one of the first, largest agencies to roll out Windows 10, starting in about three weeks," said Guy Cavallo, TSA's executive director of IT operations, at a May 24 FedScoop event.

"We're in a race then because SSA has made the same decision," SSA Deputy Chief Information Security Officer Andy Coale said.

Cavallo said he decided to leapfrog to Windows 10 when he came to TSA from the private sector 15 months ago and found servers running Windows 2003 and other computers on Windows XP.

"I know it's a natural inclination if you're on Windows 7 now to go to 8 or 8.1, but guess what -- you've got another end-of-life coming," Cavallo said.

But Windows 10 could end the cycle.

"Windows 10 is the promised land," Cavallo said. "Microsoft is swearing that there is no Windows 11."

The upgrade won't just be good for budgets but will also meet user expectations, Cavallo said. He added that there is a Best Buy across the street from TSA headquarters and asked, "If one of our end users went across the street, would they buy a laptop with Windows 7 and Office '10 on it? No, they're going to take home Windows 10 and Office '16, so that's what we're doing at TSA."

The effort has not been painless, and some new features have clashed with old hardware and system architectures.

But Coale said that once the Windows 10 switch was complete, SSA would have many applications running in compatibility mode "for a very long time" because of the web of dependencies SSA has built up over the years.

"You want to turn on credential guard -- it's what we're most excited about as far as being able to deal with some of the phishing hacks -- [but] credential guard is what caused the manufacturer BIOS to have an error," Cavallo told his fellow feds. "Definitely update your BIOS before you turn it on."

Cavallo said his TSA team worked with Microsoft and the Defense Department -- which is moving on its own Windows 10 upgrade -- to hash out implementation issues, and the teams plan to publish their work for other agencies to reference.

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