We all live in a Windows submarine...

We all live in a Windows submarine...

Summary: MPs and security experts are attacking the government for its decision to use Windows 2000 on its submarines

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TOPICS: Security
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The British government is defending its decision to implement Microsoft Windows 2000 on some of its Navy fleet.

MPs and security experts have asked Ministry of Defence (MoD) minister Geoff Hoon to explain why the department has chosen to use the operating system on some of its submarines and ships instead of Unix.

The MoD has so far implemented Windows 2000 on its Type 45 Destroyer ship and some Trafalgar type submarines, but denied it has taken any decision to use it on its new nuclear submarine -- the Vanguard.

"It's not like we load everything with Windows and off we go," said a spokesman for the MoD. "There is a lengthy testing period with this. We're satisfied that [Windows 2000] is safe, secure and will perform appropriately. It has gone through independent evaluation against the strictest of criteria."

"The safety of all our nuclear submarines is of paramount importance and we would not introduce a system on board that would jeopardise their safety."

Security experts, including one ex-army professional, contacted the Liberal Democrats when they heard about the government's decision. The Liberal Democrats have written to Hoon's department asking for its reasons for using Windows 2000.

"We are concerned," said Matt Waldman, defence advisor to the Liberal Democrats. "Windows is not known for being a secure system, and we want to know if it's sustainable for the Type 45 Destroyers and Vanguard Destroyers. We want to see evidence why they have not used an alternative system for protection against hackers. We want answers and we want them quickly. Particularly in the context of ever more sophisticated terrorists with more money behind them."

The MoD said it was also implementing 'middleware' to protect its system. But security experts criticised its actions.

"Middleware could be anything -- it could be a firewall or an element of the software, and that's only as secure as it's configured," said director of security for Whitehat UK Jason Hart. "I think it's crazy that a Ministry of Defence spokesman has said that Windows 2000 is being used on a variety of ships. From a risk point of view that's like saying 'Hello world, we're using Windows.'"

Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Topic: Security

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18 comments
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  • I find it amazing that the government has given control of our Navy to the Americans! Mind you, the actions of this government are dictated to by the Americans anyway, so I suppose I shouldn't be surprised...
    anonymous
  • To the concerned British subject:
    Our nuclear deterrent, from Polaris to Trident has always used American missiles, so a couple of Windows computers isn't exactly going to mean we hand our secrets over to the Americans. I imagine the majority of the country's defence work is done, like everything else, on American-powered computers - Intel, SG, Cray, Microsoft, Unix etc etc etc

    To the Lib Dem's senior defence advisor:
    Who on earth told you that Vanguard was a destroyer. If your lot ever get in power, we'll have trouble in the event of a crisis when you try and send a submarine to provide air defences - Vanguard is a ballistic missile submarine.
    anonymous
  • RUE BRITANNICA!

    Trusting any Microsoft product where lives are at stake is extremely short sighted.

    Wasn't the FAA's nearly catastrophic loss of communications between controllers and aircraft due to the replacement of a working Unix system with a Microsoft based system?

    Microsoft political payola to get their systems on British warships must be funding the re-election hopes for these ignorant Microsoft functionaries.
    anonymous
  • Usually...

    The same people that are quick to inform the world they're now on Windows are also the last ones to tell you about the aftermath. Or even what strange reasoning they followed to come to their decisions in the first place. Let alone the quality and reality of the acceptance tests involved. Do we smell a future cover-up here?

    As such I would strongly recommend a full scale investigation by truly independant people that do know what they're talking about.

    If anything, just to assure the people there's nothing to be worried about. But I wouldn't be surprised at all if it turns out to be the case that this whole project was inspired by some external and misinformed (unexperienced) chap with a strong commercial motivation towards his own employer.
    anonymous
  • Great !

    and now It will be possible to declare war to UK without risk , the ships will be destroyed itself

    may be M$ is a massive weapon ?
    anonymous
  • thank's to confirme to me you are not europeen
    anonymous
  • One of the major ship builders in America has been responsible for the last 12 ships that America has put into service.

    Bill Gates is the second largest shareholder of teh ship builder and that is how MS is getting its foothold in the defense world.

    BEA sacked one of its department heads due to the man prefering Linux than MS when it came to replacing Unix on our defense grid.

    But as always, you can't tell the Labour government they seem to know everything, look at Hoon, can you really trust that man, especially when he declared that he didn't know Doctor David Kelly, but forgot to mention that he had many times had lunch with the man and also acknowledged that Dr David Kelly was a man who tinkered with machinery.
    anonymous
  • No risk to lives. Probably wont function in the wet anyway.
    You can't have independant advisors who know what they are talking about as the resulting report would not reflect the real situation and how successful the project was.
    anonymous
  • It will be fine,

    so long as they are running a non MS firewall and switch off all the default services. Or just never switch the box on in a hostile enviroment....

    I wonder if the paperclip and sniffer dog will get a new uniform? - I see you are about to lauch a cruise missle would you like to use a wizard to simplify the task?
    anonymous
  • It has reached my ears that weird clicking and creaking sounds can be heard from the graves of Queen Elizabeth I, Sir William Drake and Admiral Nelson.
    Is this rumour true?
    anonymous
  • No one can say that any Microsoft Windows OS is secure. Not even Ballmer or Gates can. They have provided us and many companys whith false information about Windows high TCO comparing to Windows. So isn't it very likely that the securoty of all Microsoft software are bogus too.

    Thats not hard to prove. Just look at the virus front. nearly 100 000 comparing to 1 for MAC OS X and around 40 for Linux.

    To trust on Windows is just the same to put the trust on a blind gatekeeper. And this gatekeeper whil manage nuclear submarines. I would fire everyone that is for this idea.
    anonymous
  • I suppose that Microsoft promised Mr Hoon to
    bundle the special bonus pack "MoD Plus!" including "DiveSimulator" into Win2K.
    anonymous
  • Hee, hee, ha, ha - too funny. Why not use a really stable system like XP instead? ...Steering Control Application has encountered an unexpected condition and will now shut down. Send report?...

    Better yet - 2k3 Server - that way you can remotely reboot your boat. It would be like having a remote car starter.
    anonymous
  • You can't help wondering if it was piloted on that sub we sold to the Canadians. You know the one that went on fire a couple of hours after they collected it from its base in Scotland.

    It spent 2 days drifting around in the Irish sea - presumably the pc support guy was hanging on the phone to MS Support all that time...
    anonymous
  • Does military person need a web browser - I can open 100000 browser Windows and stop the system for a short time with simple Javascript.

    Don't forget that Explorer is a core windows component and it could not be removed from the system.

    Why don't you use assembler!

    You can't trust complex operating system which already has 68000 viruses. I thing that for military purposes systems should be written from scratch.

    Noone in fleet needs Media Player or Minesweeper. Or do they?

    The system is too complex to disable all it's features.

    Don't even think to use Windows - haven't you learned the lessons in your life.

    Sorry for my bad English. I hope that you will not cause a war - monkey with big ears in parlament.
    anonymous
  • It's OK everyone, I can reveal why Windows is the OS of choice for Royal Navy ships - it's because every copy of Windows 2000 will come with built in Minesweeper!
    anonymous
  • Yawn. Its always the same lame microsoft bashing that goes on when something like this comes out - face it what's the alternative? Anyone who has seriously tried to implement Linux (whatever the flavour) will have to admit that its harder to stay ahead of the hacker curve when anyone can have access to the source. All of the arguments that make Linux a great platform can be turned to make a case for avoiding it. How much do you think the liberal MP's who are so concerned really know about OS security? You might not like microsoft but at the moment, but in a supposedly competetive market there is no credible alternative.
    anonymous
  • The IT sector in the UK is infested with the same brand of unqualified hackery that dominates the other trades such as plumbers, electricians and painter-decorators, who also think they can just figure it out while they're on the job - to the detriment of everything but their own pocketbooks. These types don't give a damn whether it works or not after they've been paid and left the work site.

    So if the Windows 2000 in question was installed by IT "consultants" from the UK it's absolutely no surprise that it's full of holes. One wonders if the shysters left essential security settings unfinished in the false belief that they'd be called back and paid more to make it all work. This too should be no surprise.
    anonymous