More than one in five computers used by Greater Manchester Police still runs on Windows XP, it has been revealed.
Security experts say Windows XP, which dates from 2001, is more susceptible to hacking, as Microsoft stopped providing updates for the system in 2014.
In May, ransomware malware known as Wannacry was used to infiltrate the computers of the NHS.
The number of Windows XP at Greater Manchester Police was revealed as part of a wider Freedom of Information request.
Dr Steven Murdoch, a cyber-security expert at University College London, told the BBC: ‘Even if security vulnerabilities are identified in XP, Microsoft won’t distribute patches in the same way it does for later releases of Windows.
‘So, if the Windows XP computers are exposed to the public internet, then that would be a serious concern.
‘If they are isolated, that would be less of a worry – but the problem is still that if something gets into a secure network, it might then spread. That is what happened in the NHS with the recent Wannacry outbreak.’
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In the Wannacry hack, NHS staff were told to turn off their computers to stop the malware spreading.
A spokeswoman for Greater Manchester Police told the BBC: ‘The remaining XP machines are still in place due to complex technical requirements from a small number of externally provided highly specialised applications.
‘Work is well advanced to mitigate each of these special requirements within this calendar year, typically through the replacement or removal of the software applications in question.’
She added: ‘The decision to share the figures on this has been made as the simple numerical response would not pose a significant increase to our organisational risks.’
However, most police forces in the UK refused to comply with the Freedom of Information request, citing security concerns.
Eight forces with fewer than 10 computers running Windows XP did reveal their figures.
This included Cleveland Police, who said it has seven PCs on XP, just 0.36% of its total computers.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland has five PCs running XP – 0.05% of its computers.
Gwent Police, North Wales Police, Lancashire Constabulary, Wiltshire Police and City of London Police all said they had no computers that run on Windows XP.
The Metropolitan Police in London, the largest force in the UK, refused to answer the FOI request.
In June, it said about 10,000 of its desktop computers used XP.
‘Disclosing further information would reveal potential weaknesses and vulnerability,’ the Met’s information manager, Paul Mayger, told the BBC.
‘This would be damaging as criminals/terrorists would gain a greater understanding of the MPS’s systems, enabling them to take steps to counter them.’
But in 2015, the Metropolitan Police did answer a Freedom of Information request on the same subject, when it said 35,000 of its desktop computers and laptops were running XP.
The BBC said it has appealed against the force’s refusal to reveal its current figures.
(Main picture: Rex)