UK's second largest police force still heavily reliant on Windows XP

Windows XP

Catching criminals requires cutting-edge technology, right? Well it should do, but that’s often not the case.

Greater Manchester Police, the UK's second biggest police force, has admitted to the BBC that it’s still using Windows XP on a large number of PCs, even though Microsoft ended nearly all support for the ageing OS back in 2014.

SEE ALSO: It's Windows 7 -- not Windows XP -- that's to blame for the spread of WannaCry ransomware

According to a Freedom of Information request, 1,518 of the police force’s PCs are still running XP. That accounts for a shocking 20.3 percent of all of the computers in use there.

In May, the Wannacry ransomware hit NHS systems hard, and it was revealed that many of those were running outdated versions of Windows. The scale of the outbreak was such that it led to Microsoft taking the unprecedented step of releasing new patches for XP.

Greater Manchester Police was one of the few forces prepared to reveal how heavily it relies on XP. The UK's biggest force -- the London Metropolitan -- refused to give an answer, although as the BBC reports, back in 2015 it admitted 35,640 of its PCs were on XP, and it’s likely a large proportion of those are still running it.

Responding to the news, Jamie Moles, Security Consultant from Lastline, says:

It comes as no surprise to hear that Manchester Police Force are using Windows XP. Any austerity hit organization will concentrate their spending where it brings the most benefit to its core mission and with the Police, that is clearly (and rightly) law enforcement, with cybersecurity likely to be a lot lower down the list of budgetary priorities. The problem however, with still running Windows XP as a desktop operating system is that as an OS that is no longer supported by Microsoft any security holes discovered in XP will not be fixed by Microsoft. Any penetration tester worth their salt will actively search for Windows XP machines within an environment as these are a known weak spot and easy to take advantage of to fully compromise a Windows Domain based computer network. The solution is to remove Windows XP by upgrading to newer desktop operating systems and by protecting the perimeter with suitable network security solutions. While this isn’t a frontline Policing issue, I would strongly urge the Manchester Police Force to upgrade, as a successful cyberattack on a Police force could cause significant, and potentially life-threatening issues.

According to the latest figures from NetMarketShare, globally Windows XP now has a 6.07 percent share of the desktop operating system market.

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