£3.5bn warship '˜using Windows XP system at centre of NHS hack'

Britain's largest ever warship appears to be running an outdated computer operating system - sparking fears the £3.5 billion vessel could be vulnerable to cyber attacks.
HMS Queen Elizabeth leaves Rosyth. Picture: Ian GeorgesonHMS Queen Elizabeth leaves Rosyth. Picture: Ian Georgeson
HMS Queen Elizabeth leaves Rosyth. Picture: Ian Georgeson

According to The Telegraph, screens inside a control room on the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier reportedly displayed Microsoft Windows XP - copyright 1985 to 2001.

Windows XP was the system being used in a number of NHS hospitals which were targeted in a WannaCry ransomware attack last month.

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In total, 300,000 computers in 150 countries were affected during the attack.

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HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier to leave Rosyth

Windows XP is no longer supported by Microsoft, meaning it does not receive updates to protect users from new types of cyber hacks.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has insisted the ship’s systems are safe because security around the computer software on the aircraft carrier is “properly protected”.

But Alan Woodward, professor of computing at the University of Surrey, said: “If XP is for operational use, it is extremely risky. Why would you put an obsolete system in a new vessel that has a lifetime of decades?”

Senior naval officers have rejected the criticisms.

Mark Deller, commander air on the Queen Elizabeth, said: “The ship is well designed and there has been a very, very stringent procurement train that has ensured we are less susceptible to cyber than most.

“We are a very sanitised procurement train. I would say, compared to the NHS buying computers off the shelf, we are probably better than that.

“If you think more Nasa and less NHS you are probably in the right place.”

Sir Michael Fallon also said the vessel’s computers would be safe, adding: “It’s not the system itself, of course, that’s vulnerable, it’s the security that surrounds it.

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“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.”

Concerns over HMS Queen Elizabeth’s computer systems came after the 65,000 ton warship slipped out of Rosyth dockyard and into open water on Monday.