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Manchester Police Has More Than 1,000 PCs Still Running Windows XP

As News Editor of Silicon UK, Roland keeps a keen eye on the daily tech news coverage for the site, while also focusing on stories around cyber security, public sector IT, innovation, AI, and gadgets.

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The UK’s second largest police force still has a large amount of legacy Windows machines

Greater Manchester Police is still using Windows XP, despite Microsoft ceasing support for the venerable operating system back in 2014. 

Despite being the UK’s second largest police force, Greater Manchester Police told the BBC that 20 percent of all the office computers the force has, some 1,518 of its PCs, are running Windows XP, 

Given how Microsoft no longer offers security update for the ageing operating system, there is potential that a decent chunk of the police force’s IT estate is vulnerable to cyber attacks. 

It would appear that Greater Manchester Police is attempting to reduce the amount of machines running Windows XP, though it still has some way to go before all its computers are up-to-date. 

“The remaining XP machines are still in place due to complex technical requirements from a small number of externally provided highly specialised applications,” a spokeswoman told the BBC.

“Work is well advanced to mitigate each of these special requirements within this calendar year, typically through the replacement or removal of the software applications in question.”

The BBC came across the information via a Freedom of Information request, and the broadcaster noted that many other police forces had refused to disclose the numbers of PCs they have running Windows XP. As such, it is possible to speculate that Greater Manchester Police is not the only UK police force with a number of outdated operating systems. 

The largest UK police force, the London Metropolitan Police Service, also declined to reveal the number of machines it had still running outdated Windows operating systems, citing security as the reason for keeping tight-lipped. 

“Disclosing further information would reveal potential weaknesses and vulnerability,” Paul Mayger, the Met’s information manager, said.

“This would be damaging as criminals/terrorists would gain a greater understanding of the MPS’s systems, enabling them to take steps to counter them.”

Even Windows XP’s successor Windows 7 is not a better option, as Microsoft no longer fully supports the operating system, and as such its security is not up to scratch, as was demonstrated with the havoc caused by the WannaCry ransomware infection which saw equipment running Windows 7 in NHS hospitals disrupted

Quiz: Cyber security in 2017