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Victorian Police say Redmond's wrong! XP doesn't 'heighten risk'

Still plans to ditch it come December

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Victoria Police has defended its continued use of Windows XP until the dying days of 2014, claiming it does not elevate risk.

The use of the almost 13 year-old now defunct operating system was revealed in a blue paper which found many officers could not open files in new applications and resorted to printing documents to take home.

"The Victoria Police computer network still uses Windows XP, which has been superseded by three newer operating systems," the Victoria Police Blue Paper [PDF] revealed.

"Many police encounter difficulty in opening documents created using newer programs and resort to taking the documents home to read, print or convert to a usable format."

A VicPol spokeswoman defended the use of XP telling Fairfax it did not "heighten risk" for the agency, without elaborating further or indicating if the agency had shelled out for expensive $200-per-desktop custom support.

The Garden State's police service planned to rip out XP by December this year signalling the first operating system upgrade "in many years", the paper noted.

The seemingly bizarre comments supporting the risk profile of XP clashed with advice from Microsoft and the security industry that the platform is now hacker fodder. The cessation of XP security patches meant Windows updates could be reverse engineered to provide attackers with a means to reliably exploit the operating system; Trustworthy Computing director Tim Rains said in August this meant XP would "essentially have a zero day vulnerability forever".

Security bod and NCC Group Asia Pac managing director Wade Alcorn said Vic Pol's use Windows XP was below standard.

"The Victorian Police, and the industry as a whole, has had ample notice that Windows XP would come to end of life," Alcorn said.

"It is significantly below industry security expectations that critical and sensitive data be trusted to this operating system.

"Police officers and indeed the general public should not have to be concerned whether the Police Force’s IT infrastructure is running antiquated and vulnerable operating systems. Using end of life operating systems heightens the probability of a range of attacks, which can ultimately lead to exposure and exploitation of sensitive information."

He pointed out that XP was created at a time when the threat landscape was less demanding and cited research that suggested XP was six times more vulnerable than Windows 7.

Redmond even recommended that the tech community through its unpaid community service role as tech support for friends and family should insist on dumping XP, albeit though the purchase of new computer kit.

Victoria's finest are not alone in their clingy love for XP; a new three-month BitDefender study declared one in five small to medium sized businesses still used the operating system while F-Secure security thinker Mikko Hypponen declared he "can't wait for Windows XP to die".

The blue paper further criticised Vic Police for having more than 600 stand-alone programs and databases produced from ad-hoc workarounds, insufficient storage for police to "perform their duties", and an inability to apply analytics, voice recognition and video analysis to valuable raw data which limited "real-time preventative, detection and investigation efforts".

It also tore up Vic Pols' core database dubbed the Law Enforcement Assistance Program (LEAP) for running on "obsolete" mainframe and green screen technology. ®

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