Information Warfare: Microsoft Puts The Royal Navy Under Water

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December 25, 2008: The British Royal Navy has developed a modified version of the Microsoft Windows XP operating system for its warships. The first version, "Windows for Submarines," is being installed on the fleets nuclear submarines. Versions of this operating system is being adapted for surface ships as well.

The British selected a commercial operating system for this because it was cheaper to maintain, and easier to train sailors in its use. It took a lot less time to develop the new ship-wide network (everything is connected by commercial Ethernet cables and software) using Windows, and XP is one of the more stable versions of Windows (which runs on 85 percent of the worlds PCs). The security risks inherent in Windows (which attracts most of the attention from hackers) were tended to during the modification of Windows for navy use. How well the Royal Navy version of Windows stands up to the hackers, remains to be seen.

In contrast, the U.S. Navy uses Linux to run critical systems on its warships. The U.S. Army is using Linux for its networked FCS (Future Combat System) vehicles (which are still in development). The army is also converting many of its Microsoft Windows applications to run under Linux.

It's not just the better security Linux provides, but the fact that there are many versions of Linux to choose from, and the operating system is easier to modify (being an "open source" system, unlike the proprietary Windows.) Currently, the U.S. Department of Defense has over 200 Linux based software projects in development. The military uses custom made software for its most critical applications, and it's easier to create this stuff using Linux.

 

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