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article imageMetropolitan Police told it must stop using Windows XP

By James Walker     Aug 9, 2016 in Technology
London - London's Metropolitan Police has been warned to stop using Windows XP or risk citizens' security. The force still has over 27,000 PCs running the outdated operating system and is using taxpayers' money to pay Microsoft for important updates and patches.
GLA Conservative Assembly Member Andrew Boff is pressuring the Metropolitan Police (MPS) to stop using the "dangerously out-of-date" operating system to protect Londoners' information. In 2015, it was reported that over 35,000 computers owned by the police were still running Windows XP.
Concerned about the progress being made to install new operating systems, Boff asked London mayor Sadiq Khan this month how many of the machines are still running the unsupported OS. Khan admitted that 27,000 machines still have Windows XP installed.
The mayor said the MPS is currently reforming its IT systems in a "transformational" upgrade program. He revealed that 8,000 desktop computers have been migrated to the newer Windows 8.1 operating system in the past year. There are plans to upgrade an additional 6,000 machines by the end of September, bringing the total number of remaining Windows XP systems down to 21,000.
This is still an alarmingly high number of computers left running the 15-year-old OS. The MPS admitted it's still unsure what to do with these machines, saying "further plans" are being developed. In the meantime, sensitive information on civilians is being put at risk due to the lack of support for Windows XP.
Microsoft stopped releasing security updates for Windows XP in April 2014. The MPS is currently paying Microsoft so it continues to receive specially developed patches. While the amount of money being spent has not been publicly disclosed, a similar deal between Microsoft and the Dutch government is worth £1.4 million. In 2014, the UK government paid Microsoft £5.5 million to continue maintaining Windows XP machines operating in the public sector.
Boff argued that the money could be better spent elsewhere. He called on the MPS to create a credible upgrade plan for all its machines, urging the current schedule to be sped up and then reconsidered for the future.
"The Met should have stopped using Windows XP in 2014 when extended support ended, and to hear that 27,000 computers are still using it is worrying," said Boff in a statement. "My major concern is the security of Londoners’ information on this dangerously out-of-date system, but I would also like to know how much money the Met have wasted on bespoke security updates."
Boff also questioned the MPS' decision to upgrade to Windows 8.1, rather than Windows 10. The newer Windows 10 will be supported for much longer into the future than Windows 8.1, allowing for less frequent system upgrades. It is also generally viewed to be more appropriate for businesses than the unpopular Windows 8.1. Boff noted that the 3-year-old OS "is neither the newest version of Windows, nor the most used version of the software."
Continuing to use Windows XP today poses serious security risks that shouldn't be ignored. The aging OS is an easy target for hackers as it has weaker protections than newer versions of Windows. The lack of official security updates means vulnerabilities found since the end of support will never be patched, allowing hackers to indefinitely exploit potentially critical flaws.
Despite the major security issues, Windows XP is still used by millions of individuals and enterprises around the world. Outdated and long overdue eradication, the 15-year-old stalwart is likely to remain popular for several more years yet, at the expense of personal privacy and the integrity of sensitive information.
More about Microsoft, Windows, Windows xp, Security, Police
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