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September 20, 2017

Windows XP puts UK police at ransomware attack risk

Which public service are you most afraid will be hit by a cyberattack? Do you think the government should foot the ransom bill?

By Tom Ball

Greater Manchester Police has said that 20 percent of its computers could potentially facilitate a successful ransomware attack because they are still running Windows XP.

This revelation is highly concerning, with 33 percent of British citizens feeling most concerned by the prospect of the police being hit by a cyberattack, ahead of other public services.

In Manchester where this security weakness within the police force has been revealed, 34% of the populace is most concerned about the police being targeted.

Behind this research is, also unveiling the statistic that 49 percent of British citizens would expect the government to pay ransoms against public services to relinquish them from the grip of an attack.

Raj Samani, fellow and chief scientist at McAfee, said: “The public sector is an increasingly popular target for cybercriminals. Its ample sensitive data provides large-scale opportunities to cause havoc, as was made evident this year with the WannaCry attack which targeted the NHS.”

Windows XP puts UK police at ransomware riskThe WannaCry ransomware attack largely disabled the NHS, reducing services to pen and paper functionality, a critical situation with so many relying on connected devices. A failure to patch Windows XP allowed that attack to be so successful.

“It’s no secret that our public sector is grappling with significant budgeting challenges. On top of this, new strains of malware are being developed every day. It’s therefore essential that security remains a key priority, and that police forces ensure they’re looking to the most effective and efficient ways to secure their operations and data. From running the most up to date operating systems to ensuring all devices are protected against malware and ransomware, our public sector needs to be protected,” said Samani.

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Police forces and other services are showing increasing awareness to cyber threats with the increasing severity of crimes being committed, with law enforcement keen to stay in the loop.

Mr Samani said: “Private businesses need to support the public sector in making this possible. Projects such as No More Ransom demonstrate the power of law enforcement and IT security companies joining forces. Since its conception a year ago, we’ve worked with police forces to provide free-to-use decryption keys and prevent ransomware attacks.”

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