[ISN] Failed Windows XP Upgrade Downs 60,000 UK Gov't PCs

InfoSec News isn at c4i.org
Mon Nov 29 02:01:04 EST 2004


By John Lettice
The Register - special to eWEEK.com 
November 27, 2004 

Most of the desktop computers in the UK's Department for Work and 
Pensions were paralyzed for four days on Monday, when a failed upgrade 
took them offline. The outage, covering 75 percent to 80 percent of 
the DWP's 80,000 PCs, is one of the largest in the UK government's not 
entirely impressive IT history.

And possibly one of the most costly. According to staff reports, the 
outage occurred on Monday afternoon, disconnecting staff e-mail, 
benefits processing, and Internet and intranet connectivity. According 
to one, a limited network upgrade from Windows 2000 to Windows XP was 
taking place, but instead of this taking place on only a small number 
of the target machines, all the clients connected to the network 
received a partial, but fatal, "upgrade." 

Another source says that the DWP was trialing Windows XP on a small 
number ("about seven") of machines. "EDS was going to apply a patch to 
these. Unfortunately the request was made to apply it live and it was 
rolled out across the estate, which hit around 80 percent of the Win2K 
desktops. This patch caused the desktops to BSOD and made recovery 
rather tricky as they couldn't boot to pick any further patches or 
recalls. I gather that [Microsoft Corp.] consultants have been flown 
in from the U.S. to clear up the mess." EDS is also thought to be 
flying in fire brigades. 

If these claims are true, the DWP could face grave difficulties in 
rolling all of its machines back to their previous, working state. 
Staff from Microsoft and EDS are reported to have been working around 
the clock to dig the department out of the pit, while speaking on the 
"Today" program Friday morning, a spokeswoman amusingly insisted that 
the department's systems had not in fact fallen over. They were 
working; it was merely the case that "80 percent of desktop computers 
are not connecting through to the mainframe systems." 

So that's cleared that up then. She added that the emergency payments 
system was "working perfectly." The emergency system appears to have 
kicked in on Wednesday, and the department was preparing a press 
release on the matter Thursday. There was no sign of it when this 
story was published. 

Reports coming in on Friday however suggest that at least some of the 
DWP's systems are coming back online. 

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