Technology > Security

The Metropolitan Police need to beef its own online security after 18,000 police computers were found still running the decommissioned Windows XP operating system.

The shocking discovery raises well-founded fears since Windows XP was a key component in the widely publicized WannaCry ransomware attack that had the National Health Service (NHS), another key public service, paying a hefty price – 40 NHS hospitals were knocked offline and computer access was cut for 24 trusts nationwide in the attack.

When the initial exploit was first leaked in April, Microsoft issued a security patch, but the standard of that time did not include legacy Windows XP in the update. It was after the NHS debacle when Microsoft decided to issue a new security patch for the decommissioned software over fears a glitch made it susceptible to hackers.

However, a repeat is in the offing based the latest figures revealed by London Assembly member Steve O’Connell. The dated XP remains the most-used operating system across the Met’s IT portfolio despite repeated warnings that it is no longer fit for purpose. O’Connell said 18,293 police force devices and computers still use the old software.

Although the Met Police is making slow progress in updating its systems – 14,450 computers have been updated to Windows 8.1, and a further eight to Windows 10 – the risk of cyber attack is increasing. Furthermore, a recent audit by the Information Commissioner’s Office said use of the software could affect the secure handling of personal data.

“The recent cyber-attacks on Parliament and the NHS show what a serious matter this is,” said Assembly Member O’Connell.  “It is vital the Met is given the resources to step up its upgrade timeline before we see another cyber-attack with nationwide security implications.”

 

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