Five police forces said they had no computers running XP and they were City of London Police, Wiltshire Police, Gwent Police, North Wales Police and Lancashire Constabulary. This suggests that these forces are now immune from potential WannaCry-like attacks that exploit vulnerabilities in older operating systems.
The Greater Manchester Police’s spokesperson has however confirmed that were planning to upgrade to the latest version of Windows operating system but as it was hard for them to migrate the applications to Windows 10, the force hasn’t ditched Windows XP yet.
It adds: “Without critical Windows XP security updates, your PC may become vulnerable to harmful viruses, spyware, and other malicious software which can steal or damage your business data and information”.
However, the London Metropolitan Police Service and the Greater Manchester Police continue to remain as the two forces employing the largest number of PCs running Windows XP.
However, Greater Manchester Police claimed that over 1500 PCs were still on the legacy operating system, amounting to around 20% of the total.
Even though the number of legacy PCs used by the Met is the highest among police forces in the United Kingdom, the force has been able to reduce the number of PCs running Windows XP from 35,640 in October 2015 to 10,000 in June 2017.
A representative of the management explains to the media that the reasons for the presence of these machines are purely technical – mainly due to the incompatibility of applications for the newer versions of Windows.
Prior to – and since – the end of support, the software firm has warned users that continuing to run Windows XP represents a security risk, and that upgrading to a newer operating system is strongly advised.
“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”.
With Netmarketshare putting the total global usage of Windows XP at 6.07 percent, the continuing use in the United Kingdom public sector is an increasing concern. The fact that Microsoft issued emergency updates for XP and other unsupported systems in response to the WannaCry outbreak shouldn’t lure organisations into a false sense of security: “there’s no guarantee that this would happen for future attacks”. According to a survey conducted by the firm, 33% of Brits are anxious that the police could be singled out for attack by hackers, ahead of other critical public services and infrastructure.