Britain’s largest ever warship is not “vulnerable” to cyber-attacks despite running on Microsoft Windows XP, a 16-year-old operating system, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has said.
The Conservative minister defended the use of what many consider to be outdated technology on HMS Queen Elizabeth the day after it left its dockyard for the first time to begin sea trials.
Windows XP is no longer supported by Microsoft, meaning it does not receive updates to protect users from new types of attacks.
“If XP is for operational use, it is extremely risky,” Alan Woodward, professor of computing at the University of Surrey, told The Times after it was revealed the £3.5billion aircraft carrier is apparently using the same software that left the NHS exposed.
“Why would you put an obsolete system in a new vessel that has a lifetime of decades?”
But Fallon suggested there was nothing to be concerned about when appearing on Radio 4′s Today programme this morning ahead of a speech on cyber-security. Fallon said:
“It’s not the system itself that’s vulnerable, of course, it’s the security that surrounds it. 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.”
He said the problem with the NHS - and the threat to MPs’ emails over the weekend - was the “sloppy use of passwords”.
Some were less than convinced.
HMS Queen Elizabeth is a 280-metre, 65,000-tonne aircraft carrier that was moved from Rosyth out into the Firth of Forth on Monday in a three-hour operation.
The £3 billion behemoth, which is set to be the nation’s future flagship, and her 700-strong ship’s company are heading to the North Sea for maiden sea trials over the summer.
One of the most delicate manoeuvres of the six-week trials has already been completed just moving the ship from the dock.
Navigators, pilots and tug boats had the slimmest of margins to deal with to guide HMS Queen Elizabeth out of the Rosyth basin in Fife where she was assembled.
At high tide, the ship was taken through a narrow gate avoiding the dock walls by inches while under the water line there was just half a metre between the bottom of the ship and the seabed.