XP migration 'mismanaged' and costing millions, says New Zealand MP

Opposition ICT spokesperson Clare Curran claims more than 40,000 New Zealand government computers are still running Windows XP.
Written by Rob O'Neill, Contributor

The Opposition spokesperson on ICT has launched a broadside against Minister of Internal Affairs Peter Dunne, claiming mismanagement of the Government migration from Windows XP is costing taxpayers millions.

Peter Dunne

Labour Party MP Clare Curran says Dunne needs to explain why millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money is being used to prop up outdated and unsupported computer systems, exposing key ministries to increased security risks.

Curran says according to Official Information Act (OIA) requests at least 40,000 government computers remain on XP, a now unsupported operating system.

“According to OIA responses, at least 20 ministries and 14 district health boards failed to migrate all of their computer terminals off of Windows XP before Microsoft’s 8 April 2014 end of support deadline,” Curran says.

That does not include Dunne's Department of Internal Affairs, which Curran says is refusing to respond to its OIA request on the issue.

Agencies have been left to either "shell out taxpayer dollars" to Microsoft to extend support, or to "shrug their shoulders and hope for the best", she says.

Curran says Police have nearly 10,000 computers using XP, Justice 5,584, Defence 73, Corrections 259 and Ministry of Primary Industries 1793.

In addition, more than NZ$1 million has already been paid out over an unspecified period to continue the support of nearly 20,000 District Health Board computers still using XP, she says.

It isn't just Microsoft ending support for Windows XP, but also makers of vital plug-ins. Oracle a few days ago announced it has ended support for the Java runtime environment on Windows XP. Customers still using the product on the operating system do so "at their own risk".

However, Dunne describes Curran's claims as "unsubstantiated". He says estimates are that around 25% of desktops worldwide still run Windows XP. The Government Chief Information Officer has also been advising agencies since 2012 about the need to migrate.

"Most agencies migrated their systems by 8 April, and of those had not, most had plans to move from Windows XP by the end of July," Dunne says. "There has been no loss of service in agencies that have taken this approach."

Moving off the XP system is the responsibility of each individual agency, he says.

"If agencies were not able to migrate by the date, they were expected to implement robust risk management to ensure that their systems were protected," he says. "This included extended support arrangements from Microsoft ...

"Migrating more than 160 government agencies is complex and does not lend itself to a single solution. In many cases old applications were written for XP systems and require redevelopment, which takes time and resources, particularly in complex environments."

Dunne says he is confident agencies are managing this challenge appropriately, and the number of devices still on XP is reducing every week.

Labour has complained to the Ombudsman following what Curran says is a refusal by Dunne to respond to OIA requests on the number of government agencies continuing to run computers on Windows XP.

“The Department of Internal Affairs, through the Government Chief Information Officer, is meant to show leadership on internal Government ICT Policy, yet while every other agency has revealed their corresponding figures without question Peter Dunne and the Department of Internal Affairs continue to hide behind national security provisions of the OIA and refuse to do so."

"Labour IT spokesperson Clare Curran has fired off yet another volley of unsubstantiated claims that the government is 'propping up outdated and unsupported computer systems across the public service' around the transition from Windows XP operating systems," Minister of Internal Affairs Peter Dunne said today.

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