Why is the Met still running 27,000 Windows XP machines?

GLA member criticises the police’s reliance on out-of-date operating system

Police

The Metropolitan police is still running 27,000 out-of-date Windows XP computers, more than two years after official support ended for the operating system.

Microsoft stopped issuing patches for Windows XP in April 2014, meaning newly-discovered bugs or flaws are open for hackers to exploit.

The figures were revealed today by Conservative Greater London Assembly member Andrew Boff, who said: "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.

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"My major concern is the security of Londoners' information on this dangerously out-of-date system, but I would also like to know how much money the Met has wasted on bespoke security updates."

Public organisations who did not complete a migration from XP by the time support expired in April 2014 could strike expensive custom support deals with Microsoft.

The UK government paid 5.5 million to do this as the cut-off date approached, but that ended in April 2015.

It said at the time: "We expect most remaining government devices using Windows XP will be able to mitigate any risks, using the CESG guidance[security advice for obsolete platforms]. Where this is not possible, they may need to review their own short-term transition support."

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The Met has upgraded 8,000 desktops from XP since 2015 when it ran 35,000 XP machines, and it has plans to upgrade another 6,000 by September, according to Boff.

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But he criticised the Met for choosing to upgrade to 8.1, rather than Microsoft's current OS, Windows 10, which has been out for a year.

He said: "I also question the choice to upgrade to Windows 8.1; this is neither the newest version of Windows nor the most used version of the software. Staff are likely to be more familiar with Windows 10, but most importantly it will be supported further into the future."

In an interview with IT Pro last May, the Met's interim CTO, Stephen Deakin, explained the decision to pick 8.1 over 10 was to make the upgrade process easier.

"Once we're on 8.1, the great thing is we can do an in-place upgrade to Windows 10 because it's not a new kernel," Deakin said. "We can start using Windows 10 tablets, if we so choose. It's a huge amount of effort to leapfrog the Met from Windows XP to Windows 10.

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"With 10 we can run stuff on tablets, Surface hubs, or all sorts of things. But it's taken two years' worth of planning and execution to get there."

He said at the time that he did not know when the Met would have moved completely off XP. IT Pro has contacted the Met for comment on the latest developments.

Boff has called on Mayor of London Sadiq Khan to revaluate the Met's upgrade schedule, and wants it to have a better plan for future updates.

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