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article imageBritain's brand-new aircraft carrier 'runs Windows XP'

By James Walker     Jun 27, 2017 in Technology
HMS Queen Elizabeth, the UK's new £3.5 billion aircraft carrier, reportedly uses Windows XP as its computer operating system. The flagship vessel left the dockyard for the first time this week. It quickly sailed into fears of a potential cyberattack risk
The ship will be the biggest and most well-equipped member of the Royal Navy fleet when it is commissioned later this year. Questions have already been raised about the futureproofing of its on-board technology. According to several UK newspaper reports from journalists attending the launch, Windows XP is helping to keep the vessel afloat.
Windows XP is said to have been spotted on computer screens on the aircraft carrier's main control deck. It suggests the technology being used is already long obsolete, putting the warship at risk of a cyberattack.
Microsoft ceased support for Windows XP in 2014 and no longer provides security updates. Last month, the operating system aided the spread of the WannaCry ransomware through businesses worldwide, including the UK's National Health Service. There are now concerns that HMS Queen Elizabeth could be affected by a similar campaign in the future, leaving the ship unable to function while at sea.
The Royal Navy and Ministry of Defence have both denied that the technology on the carrier poses a security threat. Mark Deller, commander air on the HMS Queen Elizabeth, told The Guardian that "the ship is well designed" and "less susceptible to cyber than most." Appearing unfamiliar with the risks that outdated operating systems present, Deller reassured reporters that "we have got people looking at stuff like this all the time."
Windows XP would have been part of the ship's specification when it was designed in 2004. The technology is now antiquated though, leaving it well behind the times. Deller claimed there is underlying flexibility and it will be possible to upgrade to newer platforms.
Critics have suggested that the carrier should have left the dockyard with a modern operating system installed, ensuring its critical systems are fully protected against digital threats. Computing professor Alan Woodward told The Telegraph that the decision to proceed with Windows XP is "extremely risky."
HMS Queen Elizabeth was put to sea for the first time yesterday. She is sailing into the North Sea with a crew of over 700 sailors to commence her sea trials. The vessel was eased out of the docks at Rosyth in Scotland under a high tide with just 35cm between the hull and the lock gates. There was only 50cm of water between the keel of the boat and the bottom of the lock.
First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Phillip Jones described the event as a "hugely significant moment" for the UK's naval forces, stating "a new era of British maritime power is about to begin." The vessel won't be used in formal operations until 2021.
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