A JAPANESE WATCHDOG has slammed the operators of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant after an audit revealed that most of its PCs run on Microsoft's Windows XP.
The plant's owner might have been expected to ensure that systems are up to date and as secure as possible after the meltdown of three of the plant's six nuclear reactors in March 2011. But apparently not.
Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) has had its wrists slapped by the Board of Audit of Japan, an organisation that oversees the finances of Japan's government and its agencies, after it discovered that about 48,000 of Tepco's PCs were running XP. This is an outdated version of Windows that no longer receives security updates or technical support from Microsoft.
A report in The Japan Times said that Tepco figured it could save some dosh by delaying an upgrade from XP while it faces a multi-billion dollar clean-up and compensation bill from the 2011 crisis.
"The company decided, on its own initiative, to move up the deadline to update the software due to system security concerns," a Tepco spokesman said.
The Board of Audit warned Tepco in an audit undertaken in March, which can be found here in Japanese, not to be so stingy and to put the upgrade at the top of its to-do list to lower the risk of another nuclear disaster as a result of poor cyber security.
"Upgrading the operating system must be done as swiftly as possible, and the firm must not push it back, given the security risks," said the board.
Technical support for XP ended just over a year ago, but that doesn't mean people have stopped using it.
One reason for this is piracy. The Product Key system used in XP comes from an era when online registration was still in its infancy and, as a result, it is lacking in security. It means that XP works no matter how many times you use the same Product Key.
There are millions of users in mainland China, for example, working on pirated copies of XP. There are others who simply don't trust newer versions of Windows, perhaps under the misapprehension that XP was just too soon after 9/11 for the NSA to have installed surveillance back doors.
A three-month study by security software house Bitdefender last year found that 18 percent of small to medium sized businesses still run XP, despite its deteriorating protection from malware and the fact that it reached end of life on 8 April 2014. µ
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