If you’re a U.S. taxpayer, you’ve likely heard how Tax Day 2018 was uniquely rocky for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). A series of technical problems prevented the IRS from processing tax returns filed electronically on 17 April. The agency rebooted its systems and restored them later that night, but it nevertheless extended the deadline for taxpayers to file their returns without penalty through 18 April in light of the outage.
The IRS did not specify what went wrong at the time of this writing, but legacy systems might have had something to do with it. As reported by The Washington Post, many of the Internal Revenue Service’s 60 IT systems have not received updates in decades. Two of them are nearly six decades old, making them some of the oldest systems in the U.S. federal government. It’s possible these systems caused the computer glitch that brought down the IRS for a day.
Federal Agencies’ Reasons for Having Legacy Systems
The incident at the IRS begs the question: why do federal agencies use legacy systems if they can interrupt regular business functions? One reason is that federal agencies prefer the stability afforded by these assets. Compuware CEO Christopher O’Malley noted this preference in a May 2017 article for FedScoop:
When it comes to working code, the longer it’s been running, the better it becomes as bugs and inefficiencies are eliminated over time. CIOs from the Department of Health and Human Services, the IRS and the Defense Department are just a few that have said that their legacy systems, written in Assembler and COBOL, are well written and can be kept current through ongoing stewardship.
Another reason why federal agencies keep legacy systems in place is because these information assets are often critical to day-to-day business. So long (Read more...)
*** This is a Security Bloggers Network syndicated blog from The State of Security authored by David Bisson. Read the original post at: https://www.tripwire.com/state-of-security/government/lagging-legacy-systems-how-federal-agencies-are-tackling-old-it/