A new Freedom of Information request has indicated that the UK’s second-biggest police force, Greater Manchester Police, is still running the 16-year old operating system, Windows XP, on a large 1,518 (20.3%) of its computers. Much of the UK’s public sector is facing cutbacks and has therefore neglected its IT infrastructure – the NHS, too, was running Windows XP when it became the target of a massive attack earlier this year.
Speaking to the BBC, Dr Steven Murdoch, a cyber-security expert at University College London, said:
“Even if security vulnerabilities are identified in XP, Microsoft won’t distribute patches in the same way it does for later releases of Windows … So, if the police’s Windows XP computers are exposed to the public internet, then that would be a serious concern … If they are isolated, that would be less of a worry – but the problem is still that if something gets into a secure network, it might then spread. That is what happened in the NHS with the recent WannaCry outbreak.”
Luckily, a spokesperson for the Greater Manchester Police was able to confirm that the body was continually reducing its reliance on the old operating system and that the existing machines were running specialised applications making it hard to migrate. The force typically has to replace the applications or stop using them to upgrade.
The latest request simply highlights, yet again, the need for public bodies to run open source software. With open source programs it’s much easier for the police to hire people to continue developing the specialist software to work on newer systems.
Source: BBC News