It turns out that lots of people — federal government workers and those outside of government — are still accessing government websites on out-of-date versions of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer web browser.
According to analytics.usa.gov, an official federal site that “provides a window into how people are interacting with the government online,” 1.46 billion visits to government websites occurred over the last 90 days.
Fully 22 percent of the 1.46 billion visits, or 321.2 million, came from Internet Explorer browsers, and 7.2 percent of total visitors came from Internet Explorer 10 and older versions (14.8 percent were from Internet Explorer 11). That means 105.1 million visits to federal websites in the last 90 days occurred via out-of-date browsers.
On Jan. 12, Microsoft stopped providing technical support and security updates for Internet Explorer 8, 9 and 10 web browsers. The company is encouraging customers to upgrade to Internet Explorer 11 or to Microsoft Edge, its new web browser that comes with Windows 10. The government says 1.8 percent, or around 26.3 million, of the visits came from Edge.
Tracking Federal Website Visits
Just because someone viewed a federal website on an old version of Internet Explorer does not mean that user was a federal government employee, though undoubtedly some were.
According to the analytics.usa.gov site, the data “comes from a unified Google Analytics account for U.S. federal government agencies known as the Digital Analytics Program. This program helps government agencies understand how people find, access, and use government services online. The program does not track individuals, and anonymizes the IP addresses of visitors.”
Additionally, the website notes that “not every government website is represented in this data. Currently, the Digital Analytics Program collects web traffic from around 400 executive branch government domains, across over 4000 total websites, including every cabinet department.”
Older Versions of Internet Explorer Increase Vulnerabilities
Computerworld estimates that close to 340 million users worldwide are still running outdated versions of Internet Explorer; it arrived at this figure based on web-browser-usage data from analytics firm Net Applications and Microsoft’s estimate of 1.5 billion Windows devices worldwide.
Microsoft cautions customers that if they stick with older versions of the web browser, they could be exposing themselves to security vulnerabilities and malware. “End of support means there will be no more security updates, non-security updates, free or paid assisted support options, or online technical content updates,” Microsoft explains.
Additionally, the company points out that many software vendors “no longer support older versions of Internet Explorer. For example, Office 365 takes advantage of modern web standards and runs best with the latest browser.” It also says companies that need to meet regulatory obligations, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), “should conduct due diligence to assess whether they are still able to satisfy compliance requirements using unsupported software.”