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An influential UK police advisory body has embarked on a three-month feasibility study on using Linux on police force desktops throughout England and Wales.

The Police Information Technology Organisation (PITO), a government body which provides information technology, communications systems and services to the police, is assessing the issues of deploying Linux on up to 60,000 desktop computers.

The evaluation will look at whether the open source OS could meet police requirements on security, stability cost and compatibility with existing systems. Much will depend on the outcome of the study, due in late March, and a PITO spokeswoman was keen to stress that no commitment to Linux has yet been made.

Even though the idea might be shelved, the initial view of Linux by PITO is favourable.

In a statement PITO said: "The police need very secure, virus resistant and stable desktop computing. We believe that Linux can provide this.

"There is a potential total requirement for 60,000 Linux desktop systems within the UK Police Forces so we need a very good understanding of the deployment and migration issues to Linux on the desktop.'

A contract to carry out the study has been awarded to ecommerce consultancy netproject.

Eddie Bleasdale, a director at Netproject, said it was considering recommending a system where police Linux PCs would be set up so that users cannot modify or add software to the PC. The Linux PCs will be configured to be highly secure, with the use of both smart cards and biometrics to enable user identification. Software would be updated over the network.

The Linux study, forms part of a much wider assessment, called Project Valiant, which will examine the requirements for the next generation of police computing. ®

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