Report blasts U.S. for controlling nukes with floppy disks, but it’s not all bad

Floppy Disks
Brad Jones/Digital Trends
A new report released by the Government Accountability Office condemns the use of legacy computing equipment by federal agencies. In the fiscal year 2015, the United States government spent around 75 percent of its budget for IT spending on operations and maintenance, rather than modernization and enhancement.

This is just the current status of a trend that has been ongoing for several years now. Some of the most egregious examples of outdated tech include the use of Windows 3.1 as an operating system and a continued reliance on floppy disks.

“Federal legacy IT investments are becoming increasingly obsolete,” reads the report. “Many use outdated software languages and hardware parts that are unsupported.”

Using older hardware and software makes repairs and maintenance more difficult, not to mention more expensive. The argument being made is that federal agencies could make better use of their budgets by taking advantage of modern alternatives.

But the situation isn’t quite as clear-cut as it might seem.

The report is headlined by the fact the country’s nuclear system still makes use of computers from the 1970s and long-obsolete floppy disks. However, while these pieces of equipment might seem like potential weaknesses, their age is actually the reason they’re still in commission.

Last year, a representative of the United States Air Force Global Strike Command told Digital Trends that its “tried and true” floppy disks were still in use because they were dependable. “As you can imagine, we want to ensure the utmost in reliability and efficacy when operating such a critical weapon system,” said the source. “Therefore, if a system is ‘old,’ but still reliable, we are inclined to use it.”

There’s also a bizarre security benefit to such systems. A newer, more modern device might have unknown exploits or flaws that expose it to attack. The older systems, however, are isolated by their age. It’s difficult for potential attackers to compromise hardware that only interfaces through a floppy disk.

In cases like this, the stringent guidelines on procurement and testing can make bringing new equipment into the fold a long and laborious process. Both the old and the new school have their advantages and disadvantages — but the core of this issue is whether taxpayers could be getting a better return on their investment.

Home Theater

The best movies on Netflix in November, from 'Buster Scruggs’ to ‘Dracula’

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.

These are the best Xbox One games available right now

More than four years into its life span, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From 'Cuphead' to 'Halo 5,' the best Xbox One games offer something for everyone.

Born to run (forever): The most reliable cars you can buy right now

We all dread the thought of our car turning into a money pit, but choosing a dependable vehicle from the start can help us rack up countless care-free miles. Here, we've rounded up some of the most reliable cars available.

Where are you going this weekend? These 5 off-road vehicles say 'anywhere'

The body-on-frame SUV is going extinct, but there are still several options for buyers looking to skip the asphalt. To help you sort the good from the bad, we've rounded up the best off-roaders currently available.

How to easily record your laptop screen with apps you already have

Learning how to record your computer screen shouldn't be a challenge. Lucky for you, our comprehensive guide lays out how to do so using a host of methods, including both free and premium utilities, in both MacOS and Windows 10.

Want to gift a Steam game so you can play with a friend? Here's how to do it

The holidays may have passed, but it's always a good time to give the gift of gaming (especially when there's a Steam sale)! Here's our quick guide on how to give a Steam game as a gift.
Emerging Tech

Microsoft’s friendly new A.I wants to figure out what you want — before you ask

Move over Siri and Alexa! Microsoft wants to build a new type of virtual assistant that wants to be your friend. Already making waves in Asia, could this be the future of A.I. BFFs?

Multi-monitor issues? Here's how to resolve them

If you're running into multi-monitor problems, you're not alone. Two screens are very useful, but they can present some difficulties. Here are some common multi-monitor problems and how to fix them.

Capture screenshots with print screen and a few alternative methods

Capturing a screenshot of your desktop is easier than you might think, but it's the kind of thing you'll probably need to know. Here's how to perform the important function in just a few, easy steps.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: A.I. selfie drones, ‘invisible’ wireless chargers

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

The best MacBook deals for November 2018

If you’re in the market for a new Apple laptop, let us make your work a little easier: We hunted down the best up-to-date MacBook deals available online right now from various retailers.

Cyber Monday 2018: When it takes place and where to find the best deals

Cyber Monday is still a ways off, but it's never too early to start planning ahead. With so many different deals to choose from during one of the biggest shopping holidays of the year, going in with a little know-how makes all the…

All the best deals on Surface products for Black Friday

A number of retailers are discounting Surface devices for Black Friday. Be it the Surface Pro 2017, Surface Pro 6, or the Surface Go, here's a look at how (and where) you can save big on Surface this holiday season.
Smart Home

All the best Amazon Black Friday deals for 2018

Amazon may be an online-only retailer, but that doesn’t mean its Black Friday sales are anything to sniff at. In fact, due to its online status, Amazon has huge flexibility with the range of products and deals it can offer. Here's our…