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08.01.10

British Government Chooses to Stay Clunky With Internet Explorer 6

Posted in Europe, Microsoft, Security, Windows at 5:28 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

I like London in the snow

Summary: When it comes to IT, the UK government chooses to stay frozen in 2001

THE PREVIOUS post discussed some of Microsoft’s very latest utter failures (security failures). According to a new report, Internet Explorer and Adobe Reader flaws are most exploited by crackers [1, 2]. To quote: “Of the Top 15 most exploited vulnerabilities, four involved Adobe Reader and five targeted Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, according to an M86 Security Labs report for the first half of 2010.”

Here in the UK there is a Web site where people make suggestions for the government to consider. One such suggestion is titled “encourage government departments to upgrade away from Internet Explorer 6″ (see the idea here).

“Patients would be safer if they brought a Live CD with them to the clinic.”For those who have not visited a British doctor, well… many are still using Internet Explorer 6 in their office. It’s insane. We wrote a great deal about the NHS and its relationship with Microsoft. Many lives are at stake and “computer crashes” are sometimes reported in surgeries. It’s reassuring, isn’t it? Patients would be safer if they brought a Live CD with them to the clinic.

For a long time now Microsoft has been lobbying to take control of healthcare systems around the world. Here is the longtime Microsoft booster Daniel Lyons posting a sort of Microsoft advertisement for it (this is sometimes known as a ‘fluff’ piece). There are some other new articles about Microsoft trying to “Alleviate Health IT Cloud Concerns”; it is trying to empower those decision makers who foolishly put patients’ data in the hands of corporations like Microsoft (with Russian spies).

“It’s not a private company which is entitled to make its own decisions not on behalf of taxpayers but only for shareholders who choose to participate and can leave at any time.”This is the public sector we’re talking about it. It’s not a private company which is entitled to make its own decisions not on behalf of taxpayers but only for shareholders who choose to participate and can leave at any time. Choosing Fog Computing for data which is confidential, sensitive and owned by the public is absolutely wrong. It’s worse than relying on proprietary software because data is beginning to travel (security risk).

In better news, as we pointed out a couple of weeks ago (additional links here), Microsoft is starting to lose its grip on the NHS, at least based on the licensing conundrum [1, 2].

Tens of thousands of NHS staff are to lose their personal copies of Microsoft Office after being caught out by a confusing licensing agreement.

Earlier this month, the NHS ended its £80 million Enterprise Agreement with Microsoft three years early. The agreement licensed 800,000 desktops across the health service, and offered software discounts to staff.

“NHS scraps huge Microsoft licensing deal,” said the headline from IDG and The Telegraph went along with “Microsoft loses NHS contract,” which is true just for the time being.

The Department of Health has decided not to renew its contract with Microsoft, saving up to £500million. The 12-year-old deal had meant that up to 900,000 NHS staff had full access to a full suite of Office applications, as well as the right to buy home access for £8.95.

Here is where the most recent news comes in. According to Slashdot, “UK Government Rejects Calls To Upgrade From IE6″

“The UK government has responded to a petition encouraging government departments to move away from IE6 that had over 6,000 signatories. Their response seems to be that a fully patched IE6 is perfectly safe as long as firewalls and malware scanning tools are in place, and that mandating an upgrade away from IE6 will be too expensive. The second part is fair enough in this age of austerity (I’d rather have my taxes spent on schools and hospitals than software upgrade testing at the moment), but the whole reaction will be a disappointment to the petitioners.”

From The Register we learn that “UK.gov sticks to IE 6 cos it’s more ‘cost effective’, innit” (it’s not).

It claimed at the time that its system, along with regular Microsoft updates, meant it was robust enough against the kind of attack that claimed over 30 corporate firms at the end of last year.

Google was perhaps the most high-profile victim of those attacks. It has since turned its back on supporting the old MS browser in its web apps.

Here is what Rupert Goodwins wrote about it:

UK Gov’t – ‘too expensive’ to upgrade from IE6

If you work for the Government or write software for government services, bad news – you’re going to be stuck with IE6 for the foreseeable. A 6000-strong petition for an upgrade has been rejected with the conclusion that “To test all the web applications currently used by HMG departments can take months at significant potential cost to the taxpayer. It is therefore more cost effective in many cases to continue to use IE6 and rely on other measures, such as firewalls and malware scanning software, to further protect public sector internet users.”

Which is, I fear, being economical with the truth rather than the money. It’s been economical for the rest of the world to move on – and the complete unexamined acceptance that ‘upgrade’ means ‘move to IE8′ and ‘Windows is the only game in town’ leaves a very bad taste in the mouth. And it’s a complete stopper on adopting the most important new technologies: how on earth can you move into the cloud if you don’t have decent Javascript support, for starters? And let’s not talk about HTML 5, or I’ll start to cry.

This is absolutely amazing. As our reader Patrick put it, “it’s “too expensive” to run Linux, yet its free … now it’s “too expensive” to upgrade from IE6, which is ALSO free… and IE6 is officially unsupported by Microsoft now too”

Microsoft is not even patching known flaws in Internet Explorer [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12]. What utter negligence. All that Microsoft can do is deflect the issue and point fingers elsewhere. “55% of the flaws Microsoft reported to other vendors in the last 12 months go unfixed,” says one new report. What about Microsoft? And why does the British government not learn from Google and many other companies that are recent victims of Internet Explorer 6?

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