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08.23.10

British Police Can Improve Security by Dumping Microsoft

Posted in Europe, Microsoft, UNIX, Windows at 4:42 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

NPIA

Summary: By getting rid of Windows and other Microsoft software, not only will the police improve security of its systems but it will also be able to employ more cops

THE OTHER day we named PCS for the issue of Windows in the British public sector. It’s a money drain which surely results in unnecessary layoffs and degradation in services that the public pays for.

“I have some details about the computer system,” wrote to us one anonymous reader. “I’ve found a Wiki page giving the details [so] it’s public knowledge [...] The system is Unix for the PNC” (Police National Computer). To quote:

“The PNC currently is based on a Fujitsu Siemens S-190 mainframe running the BS2000 operating system with recent PNC applications held on UNIX servers. Currently there are around 26,000 directly connected terminals and 25,000 terminals which are connected via local police force computer systems. The mainframe is connected to the end user by a multitude of ways, for high volume users (i.e. other police forces) via secure IP network, for low volume users a secure dial-up link provided by Cable & Wireless. Another connection method is via an X.25 packet-switched network, this method is currently being phased out. Databases for vehicles and driver licences are copied from the DVLA databases in the early morning (there is no service loss when an update is in progress). The mainframe server is located at the Hendon Data Centre with back-up servers located around the UK.”

“It is absolutely not acceptable to hide the bill from the very same people who pay this bill.”Well, at least they are smart enough not to put Windows in the back end. But what about the front end? What do the terminals use? Wouldn’t the “Windows link” on the desktop be the biggest weakness, especially since (as documented in the public domain) government bodies are still using Internet Explorer 6?

As the next step we wish to inquire about how much police forces are spending on Microsoft licences. This is well within one’s right to request under the FOIA (freedom of information act) unless they too ‘pull a BECTA’ by signing Microsoft deals where part of the deals is that the deals must absolutely remain secret/cryptic when it comes to cost. It is absolutely not acceptable to hide the bill from the very same people who pay this bill. Can anyone access information about the cost of Windows in the British police (not just/necessarily PNC)? In these times of belt-tightening this figure would probably be relatively astronomical, especially for software which requires a lot of maintenance and occasionally exposes sensitive data. Based on some general information that’s out there, nation-wide there would be at least 200,000 machines owned by the police, all requiring licensed software from Microsoft (not just Windows). People outside the UK probably have the exact same problem, so it’s worth investigating and speaking out about.

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