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UK Government Rejects Calls To Upgrade From IE6 233

Posted by Soulskill
from the it-was-good-enough-for-churchill dept.
pcardno writes "The UK government has responded to a petition encouraging government departments to move away from IE6 that had over 6,000 signatories. Their response seems to be that a fully patched IE6 is perfectly safe as long as firewalls and malware scanning tools are in place, and that mandating an upgrade away from IE6 will be too expensive. The second part is fair enough in this age of austerity (I'd rather have my taxes spent on schools and hospitals than software upgrade testing at the moment), but the whole reaction will be a disappointment to the petitioners." Update: 07/31 11:43 GMT by S : Dan Frydman, the man who launched the petition, has posted a response to the government's decision.
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UK Government Rejects Calls To Upgrade From IE6

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  • Cleanup (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tubal-Cain (1289912) on Saturday July 31, 2010 @02:23AM (#33093432) Journal

    The second part is fair enough in this age of austerity (I'd rather have my taxes spent on schools and hospitals than software upgrade testing at the moment), but the whole reaction will be a disappointment to the petitioners."

    That AutoRun virus that was going around a while back, how much did that cost to clean up?

    An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

    • Re:Cleanup (Score:4, Insightful)

      by timeOday (582209) on Saturday July 31, 2010 @02:52AM (#33093536)
      Upgrading may or may not prevent problems. Many times it's a huge hassle with little or negative improvement. I don't upgrade software OR hardware any more just because I can; it's too much trouble, so I wait until I have a specific reason.
      • Re:Cleanup (Score:5, Insightful)

        by phoenix321 (734987) * on Saturday July 31, 2010 @06:22AM (#33094226)

        Software being too old, insecure and barely compatible is reason enough. A browser is a must-have piece of software nowadays and if you absolutely depend on a specific version of a specific product line, you're doing things wrong in the first place.

        As IE6 is absolutely not available on any new version of Windows, it's effectively holding back all significant upgrades on the core operating system. Without updates to the operating system, the entire IT landscape is not only severely hobbled for innovation, but thoroughly insecure on major issues.

        Don't allow yourself to fall prey to the illusion that software upgrades are an entirely voluntary - or useless - effort. In the best possible scenarios, holding back upgrades is saving a few percent of the cost and postponing the rest of upgrade expenditures. In friendly real-world scenarios, it's not saving any, merely postponing all upgrade costs. In any case, it's very very likely that during decade-long upgrade holdouts, IT department will lose it's edge and sharpness, get complacent and behind on the current state-of-the-art. And with that, the whole company will lose its pace.

        Upgrading from Vista to Windows 7 is easy. Upgrading from XP to Windows 7 is a major undertaking and upgrading from any older version is financial disaster.

        Just because you CAN use old equipment until it literally falls apart, it doesn't mean it's the most sensible or cost-effective option to do so.

        • Re:Cleanup (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Gonoff (88518) on Saturday July 31, 2010 @07:24AM (#33094430)

          Software being too old, insecure and barely compatible

          old
          What is the inherent problem with software just being old? Do some of the bits fall off? Some of the bytes?

          insecure
          Many people here would remind you that it is insecure because of what it is - MS Windows. If you are going to replace it with MS Windows, it will still be insecure. Large organisations spend a lot of time keeping it secure. That is why people tell me they are not happy about our rules on what you can connect to our network, rules on USB, security policies and much much more.

          barely compatible
          That is a lot better that Vista which is not compatible at all and Windows 7 which needs to run a virual machine to be able to run most "corporate" applications.
          In fact, this is the big killer. We have completely avoided Vista because major applications would not work. Now we are being told that we need to roll out an operating system that will not run on a reasonable fraction of our estate. Then, to make things work, we need to have XP on all of them as well?

          Yes, I know that if we have to have the applications rewritten, getting them to work in a grown-up operating system would be a good idea and making all web apps browser agnostic is a must. That costs money now. Carrying on pushes it into the future.

          • Re:Cleanup (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Silvrmane (773720) on Saturday July 31, 2010 @04:52PM (#33097474) Homepage

            What is the inherent problem with software just being old? Do some of the bits fall off?

            The problem is that the web has actually moved on from what was standard practice 9 years ago. There are new methods to make crafting pleasant looking web pages easier and more productive. IE6 is simply too out of date for a large chunk of what is possible to do on the web anymore, forcing web developers to waste time doing their sites two ways. In my case, I build my sites to work in all current versions of browsers, and then spend an additional 30% to 40% of my development time making it work in IE6 as well. I'm starting to think of listing support for IE6 as a separate billing item so that the client can more accurately evaluate how important it really is to keep supporting this cranky old beast of a browswer.

        • by KiloByte (825081)

          Upgrading from Vista to Windows 7 is easy. Upgrading from XP to Windows 7 is a major undertaking

          Except, to upgrade from Vista you would first need to downgrade from XP to Vista, and that's a REALLY major disaster by itself.

          • The "Vista is bad" mantra is usually repeated by people that probably have never used it for a prolonged period of time.

            Companies usually didn't roll out that one, so enterprisey experience base isn't that solid at all.

            Having used and tinkered with Vista for a year at home with XP for being the standard at work for almost a decade now, I feel someway qualified to say that it didn't seem it wasn't even half the abomination it was declared to be.

            Vista was not a stroke of genius, not incredibly fast, but it wa

            • Re:Cleanup (Score:5, Insightful)

              by mpe (36238) on Saturday July 31, 2010 @10:33AM (#33095200)
              But the real reason to not get too much behind on upgrading is user experience: switching from XP to Vista feels differently, but not a whole lot. Switching from Vista to Win7 is also noticeable with the GUI and interface, but with even less differences than before. But switching from XP to 7 is quite a jump.

              Would this "jump" be any smaller going from XP to Ubuntu? Which also means getting rid of complex to administer software licence systems, EULAs, CALs, etc, etc.
            • >>>I feel someway qualified to say that it didn't seem it wasn't even half the abomination it was declared to be.

              Try running a brand new PC that you just bought, but only came with 1/2 gig of RAM because Microsoft said that's all Vista needs. It runs so slow you'll think there's a Pentium 1 (~200 megahertz) under the hood instead of a 3000 megahertz processor.

              Although I later upgraded that PC to 1.5 gig, it still ran pretty poorly compared to my older XP machine.

        • As IE6 is absolutely not available on any new version of Windows

          I'm running IE 6 on Windows 7. (Not because I want to) IE 6 is still available from Microsoft on MSDN and other channels. What I want to know is are we going to see the same thing with Corporate IT writing for IE9 and not web standards so in a few years we'll still be hacking sites to work on IE. I do a lot of testing in IE 8 and I've been playing with IE 9. Compared to current releases of, well, pretty much every browser IE still sucks, and sucks badly.

        • by tibit (1762298)

          I don't see how upgrading from XP to Vista/Win 7 is a "major undertaking". The only problems I'd expect are related to specific customizations in a given deployment, and to old applications. It is a slightly bigger undertaking when you have a mixed environment with Samba-based domain server(s) and Windows clients, but even then a very part time admin like myself could figure it out in about a day (with some gnashing of teeth).

          PS. Forget Win 7 with RHEL 5's Samba: you have to get newest samba instead.

  • by Manip (656104) on Saturday July 31, 2010 @02:26AM (#33093440)
    Their response was to the suggestion of changing browsers. Their post sets out very clearly that they're migrating their applications and workstations to IE8.

    Complex software will always have vulnerabilities and motivated adversaries will always work to discover and take advantage of them. There is no evidence that upgrading away from the latest fully patched versions of Internet Explorer to other browsers will make users more secure

    And:

    Upgrading these systems to IE8 can be a very large operation,

    Does make one wonder if the submitter or the editor even read it.

    • by maxwell demon (590494) on Saturday July 31, 2010 @04:19AM (#33093860) Journal

      Their post sets out very clearly that they're migrating their applications and workstations to IE8.

      I wonder if you have read it. Here's the complete paragraph from which you quoted one (partial) sentence (emphasis by me; the first emphasized sentence is the one you quoted):

      It is not straightforward for HMG departments to upgrade IE versions on their systems. Upgrading these systems to IE8 can be a very large operation, taking weeks to test and roll out to all users. To test all the web applications currently used by HMG departments can take months at significant potential cost to the taxpayer. It is therefore more cost effective in many cases to continue to use IE6 and rely on other measures, such as firewalls and malware scanning software, to further protect public sector internet users.

      So it's quite clear that they are not upgrading IE versions.

      • by rich_r (655226)
        Apart, of course, from the departments that are. Like the Home Office, and other departments running a Fujitsu contract.
    • by Yvanhoe (564877)
      Good.
      Still I don't understand how works the mind of people who believe that government should depend on software they don't have the source of, they didn't compile themselves, they didn't audited, and that comes from a company that has many interest on spying on them.
      • Oh, please. You think most governments are going to pay the money required to have someone on staff with enough expertise to review and compile open source code? They are going to do whatever it takes as cheaply as it takes to get the software it needs from the lowest priced vendor or whomever gives them the best deal... Wait, spend $$$$$$$ to hire a competent programmer or systems engineer to evaluate, compile and SUPPORT this code or spend $$ to buy copies of Winxp or Vista from CDW and buy ready to go
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          You've obviously have never worked in government IT.

          Departments in the UK government spend £millions in testing software. Sad thing is, one department will do the testing, then another has to do exactly the same wasting money in the process.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by KiloByte (825081)

          They do NOT go to the lowest priced vendor, since the lowest priced vendor charges 0, and they took instead one that takes nearly as much as the hardware costs.

          Hiring fewer more skilled admins rather than a horde of MCSEs would be financially beneficial as well.

        • In that case they need to admit that a foreign company has the ability to plant spy ware in their systems. Your military, foreign relations, trade systems are no longer secret.

          They also need to evaluate and compile each piece of software (operating system component, library, app) only once.

          Spreading this cost out over all public sector employees with a PC would make it extremely low. They should also require its use by private sector employees handling confidential government data. It could also be availab

  • by phantomfive (622387) on Saturday July 31, 2010 @02:29AM (#33093450) Journal
    The petition creators goofed, they started it out with this sentence:

    The German and French governments have started to encourage people to upgrade away from the browser Internet Explorer 6

    Heh, can't start copying the French and Germans now, can we? Next thing you know we'll be on the Euro! That killed it right there. Made it politically unfeasible. All those petition signers are stupid francophiles.

    • by rossdee (243626)

      You know Firefox has an en-gb version, I'll bet the French and Germans aren't using that one...

  • by Ocker3 (1232550) on Saturday July 31, 2010 @02:33AM (#33093460)
    Some online vendor sites have started requiring that you use IE8 to access the site, apparently because Mastercard is forcing them too. My company's standard is IE7, good thing I'm in IT so I have the rights to install 8 on one workstation for when I have to buy software from that company-selected portal that requires IE8 now...
    • by dbIII (701233)
      While on the other hand a major Bank based in Australia just broke IE7 and firefox support for their pages only accessible by smartcard, turning it all into time consuming security theatre on IE6. Pull your finger out guys.
    • I have yet to come across a site from which I could not purchase using Firefox.

  • Upgrading to IE7 or any IE is free. Just run Windows update.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by kvezach (1199717)
      Unless you use old ActiveX programs that don't support newer versions of IE, that is.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by JohnVanVliet (945577)

        "Unless you use old ActiveX programs that don't support newer versions of IE, that is."
        And if you are , then you DESERVE to get infected.

      • No point in putting off changing those applications because you can't run IE6 forever.
        • by Rich0 (548339)

          That's like saying that there is no point in putting off retirement, because you can't work forever.

          If they delay spending millions of dollars for one year, then that is a net savings for the company. A million dollars next year is cheaper than a million dollars this year.

          Plus, maybe during that year a few more IE6-only apps get retired, and as a result the upgrade just gets that much easier.

          We run into this kind of problem all the time at work. Imagine that you buy a $500k machine 5 years ago. It is run

    • by Skrynesaver (994435) on Saturday July 31, 2010 @03:34AM (#33093692) Homepage
      When you are a large institution who have (over)paid consultants to create workflow tools on your intranet, upgrading is far from free. The new approved browser will have to be validated against your existing tools, then you'll have to do rewrites where you had horrible IE6 kludges. The cost of the software isn't the issue, it's the cost of delivering your applications on that platform that is the issue.

      With that said it provides a wonderful example of why organisations should avoid proprietary extensions to standards. One day the world will move on and you'll be stuck with an un-integrateable piece of shit platform.

      • by RulerOf (975607)

        The cost of the software isn't the issue, it's the cost of delivering your applications on that platform that is the issue.

        That thing kinda gets me thinking... Wouldn't it be possible to run ActiveX inside of an IE Frame on top of another browser? Probably not a later version of IE, which is a shame, but it'd be neat if you could migrate the default browser up and then whitelist in all the broken shit to a frame running on the older rendering engine via group policy or something. That'd be nice I think, but from what I've experienced, IE is easier to deploy and manage (at the moment, at least) than any other browser when cons

  • Dictionary (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gmuslera (3436) on Saturday July 31, 2010 @03:08AM (#33093598) Homepage Journal
    Someone should inform them about the meaning of targetted attack. Malware detectors find widely known malware, but could have little clue about things made specially against you.
    • Their security advisor is probably a Zimbabwean member of Al Qaeda with a deep sympathy for the Taliban due to his Afghan roots - but only since he lost his communist party membership in the USSR when it was abolished.

      Besides that, he probably has only the interests of the UK in mind.

  • by DNS-and-BIND (461968) on Saturday July 31, 2010 @03:12AM (#33093610) Homepage
    This is something called reality that has to be dealt with. I know this is typically not what petition signers encounter in their daily lives, but endure this explanation. The truth is that critical applications depend on IE6 to function, and upgrading from IE6 would cause work to stop. They shouldn't have built their apps on IE6? Blame Microsoft, their ruthless tactics led to that situation.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dangitman (862676)

      The truth is that critical applications depend on IE6 to function, and upgrading from IE6 would cause work to stop.

      I wasn't aware that you could only have one browser installed on a computer at a time. What's wrong with installing Firefox for 99% of tasks, and also having IE6 available for the obsolete and soon to be extinct tasks that require it?

      • by linebackn (131821)

        I wasn't aware that you could only have one browser installed on a computer at a time. What's wrong with installing Firefox for 99% of tasks, and also having IE6 available for the obsolete and soon to be extinct tasks that require it?

        What's wrong is that it costs time and money for the variety of things that go in to supporting and maintaining an additional application. The bean counters would throw a fit at the idea of spending money on two applications that do effectively the same thing.

        And thanks to Micr

        • by dangitman (862676)

          What's wrong is that it costs time and money for the variety of things that go in to supporting and maintaining an additional application.

          It costs very little time and money to support Firefox. It probably costs a lot more to continue supporting the outdated IE6.

          The bean counters would throw a fit at the idea of spending money on two applications that do effectively the same thing.

          Well, the bean counters would be wrong. The costs of security vulnerability and help desk support for IE6 most likely outweigh the costs of Firefox deployment by a wide margin.

          IE is always installed with Windows.

          I didn't think it was even possible to install IE6 with Vista or Windows 7, at least without some serious work-arounds.

    • by Ice Tiger (10883) on Saturday July 31, 2010 @03:36AM (#33093696)

      That's why as part of your upgrade you upgrade / fix those apps to work on a modern browser, the alternative is you come to day when you can't upgrade anything in your IT ecology due to everything being so brittle.

      Another way of looking at things is that as IE6 gets dropped from supported browser lists over the next few years you can be faced with the situation of critical app a stuck with IE 6 but critical app b needing to be upgraded but because it has dropped support for IE 6 you can't without incurring massive project costs.

      Not keeping your software at least to supported versions is a false economy, much like the money you save not putting oil in your car, that is of course until the engine seizes.

      • by thegarbz (1787294)
        Yep but try selling the idea of replacing something that works "just fine" to the people who hold all the money. I couldn't get capital funding to replace the aircon that keeps all our critical systems cool, and now it's on the way out. The maintenance budget just got blown by $100000 but hey there was no other way. They denied my request for capital expenditure for this. Shame too, $100000 depreciable over 10 years would have provided a nicer tax break then a $100000 unknown revenue spend and an argument o
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rawler (1005089)

      Blame Microsoft, their ruthless tactics led to that situation.

      Fool me once: shame on you.
      Fool me twice...

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Bogtha (906264)

      They shouldn't have built their apps on IE6? Blame Microsoft, their ruthless tactics led to that situation.

      No, blame incompetent IT departments. Back when those kinds of apps were being built, the prevailing attitude in these kinds of places was that cross-browser compatibility was unnecessary for intranet applications. People like myself always loudly pointed out that relying on proprietary Internet Explorer 6-only code would lock them into a single vendor and cause problems if Microsoft ever moved f

    • > Blame Microsoft, their ruthless tactics led to that situation.

      Yes. After all, how could one expect the tiny, helpless little British government to resist the power of the mighty Microsoft?

  • A fully patched IE6? (Score:5, Informative)

    by nacturation (646836) * <nacturation @ g m ail.com> on Saturday July 31, 2010 @03:18AM (#33093624) Journal

    IE8 is the patch to IE6.

  • Myopia (Score:5, Insightful)

    by VincenzoRomano (881055) on Saturday July 31, 2010 @03:21AM (#33093640) Homepage Journal
    The consideration about costs is right, if you defer security decisions so much that you're still running IE6 in 2010.
    The consideration about firewalls and scanners is also right, if your policy is to go on patching a broken roof instead or making proper repairs.
    God save the Great Britain (as well as the Little one)!
  • Sad (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sugarmotor (621907) on Saturday July 31, 2010 @04:07AM (#33093824) Homepage

    Sad that something which appears so trivial turns out to be expensive.

    Stephan

    • by thegarbz (1787294)
      If this appears so very trivial then you have not properly examined the scope of the work. Start by testing each and every application that each and every one of your users use on a daily basis on a machine which no longer has IE6. Soon your simple free upgrade project will grow some very expensive arms and legs.
  • Yes sad indeed (Score:2, Insightful)

    by pawnipt (822998)
    Can IE6 even render half of the internet anymore?! I don't believe facebook even works for it, not that facebook is educational lol. You know damn well all the kids at school are going to be like "Man this really sucks!"
  • Too expensive? Pah. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Retron (577778) on Saturday July 31, 2010 @04:29AM (#33093900)
    What a load of rubbish that "too expensive" excuse is. I work as a technician in a school with around 700 PCs (several hundred each of laptops and a mix of old/new desktops) and we ditched IE6 ages ago. The cost was near zero for the curriculum PCs, as RM issued an IE7 patch ages ago. Allocating it was as simple as selecting lists of PCs and clicking "allocate". We upgraded teacher laptops on a rolling programme, the same with desktop PCs. We're now redeploying Windows across the whole site - teacher machines now have Windows 7 so it's not an issue, while the curriculum builds of Windows XP have IE8 in the base image.
    The only "expensive" bit was a day of my time fixing issues with some rubbishy Java applet that is used in the library, which isn't very happy with IE8. A day of my time is worth £40, so it wasn't exactly expensive to fix!
    If a school can do it, I'm sure government departments can too.
    • by rapiddescent (572442) on Saturday July 31, 2010 @05:09AM (#33094020)

      most of the large ukgov departments have outsourced their IT support to companies like HP, Fujitsu, Logica, Capita and so on. Due to the ukgov ineptitude of writing good outsource contracts - an IE upgrade is off plan and so the outsourcer (in a monopoly position at that department) simply charge the earth - even if it is just to roll out an update automatically. Excuses such as testing, and verification of intranet applications simply make the cost even higher

      • by Rich0 (548339)

        Usually those support contracts contain clauses that cost the support provider money if your computers go down because they miss something in the upgrade.

        That means that if you want them to push out an upgrade, you need to pay them to test all your apps, or waive their liability if you have a big mess.

        All that cost is risk-aversion, and depending on your industry/etc it may actually be money well spent.

  • Their response seems to be that a fully patched IE6 is perfectly safe as long as firewalls and malware scanning tools are in place, and that mandating an upgrade away from IE6 will be too expensive.

    The UK government stood on the brink of upgrading to last week's technology and decided this modern technology thing was moving WAY too fast.

  • What about all the extra time and money it will cost to keep *supporting* IE6 with its broken CSS etc?
  • by erroneus (253617) on Saturday July 31, 2010 @08:16AM (#33094612) Homepage

    On the surface, IE6 is free as is IE7 and IE8. So why would it be "expensive" to upgrade? Oh yeah... the man-hours spent and the applications that depend on IE6 are also considerations to make. Hrmmm... This is just the first thought in the realization that not adhering to open standards could be a costly mistake and that vendor lock-in, even one as large and ubiquitous as Microsoft, can lead to an extremely costly future.

    I wonder, then, if the UK Government will start to reach a conclusion similar to the London Stock Exchange with regard to Microsoft. While the reason to switch would be quite different, the general reason would be about the same -- "staying with this vendor can, has and will lead to disaster." Moving forward, using open standards that multiple vendors can participate in will lead to a more flexible situation where, once again, the decisions about where to go next is not in the hands of the vendor.

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