Wednesday, 28 June 2017

HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier computers still running 16-year-old Windows XP operating system

The Navy's £3bn new aircraft carrier is running 16-year-old Windows XP - and could be for another 3 years

The Ministry of Defence indicated the vessel was running the discontinued operating system, which Microsoft stopped supporting in 2014


18:00, 27 JUN 2017UPDATED18:09, 27 JUN 2017

Computers on the Royal Navy’s £3.1 billion new aircraft carrier is still running 16-year-old operating system Windows XP - and will for up to three years, the Ministry of Defence indicated today.

Reports that computers aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth, were running the ageing software emerged in the Times this morning, after reporters spotted them during a tour last week.

And today, the MoD suggested it could still be running the operating system throughout its three-year shakedown.

Microsoft stopped officially providing security updates and bug fixes for the operating system three years ago.

But a spokesperson insisted the onboard computers would not be affected by the ransomware attack sweeping the globe last night, because they are not connected to the internet.

In 2015, while the vessel was still being built, pictures emerged which appeared to show a technician computer running Windows XP.

At the time, the MoD told tech website The Register: “The MoD can confirm that Windows XP will not be used by any onboard system when the ship becomes operational.”

Asked to clarify what that meant today, a Navy spokesperson said: “We are following a programme towards delivering a carrier Strike capability –ie. operational - for the UK from 2020.”

And asked this morning if the vessel was running XP, Tory Defence Secretary Michael Fallon appeared to confirm it.

He said: "It’s not the system itself that’s vulnerable, of course, it’s the security that surrounds it. I want to reassure you about Queen Elizabeth. The security around its computer system is properly protected and we don’t have any vulnerability on that particular score."

When Microsoft discontinued support for Windows XP in 2014, the UK Government paid them £5.5 million to provide updates for another year, to give them time to migrate away from the software.

An ‘emergency’ patch was released by the tech giant last month in order to fix the exploit used by the WannaCry ransomware infection which hit the NHS and thousands of businesses worldwide.

When it finally goes on active service in 2020, HMS Queen Elizabeth is expected to run a system called Shared Infrastructure, developed by the MoD with BAE Systems.

The new computers will allow the ship’s crew access to navigation, communications, sonar and other vital systems through a single console.

An MOD spokesperson said: “While we don’t comment on the specific systems used by our ships and submarines, we have absolute confidence in the security we have in place to keep the Royal Navy’s largest and most powerful ship safe and secure.

“We take cyber security extremely seriously and the UK has doubled its cyber investment to £1.9 billion.”


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