Pregnant wife’s medical equipment runs Windows XP ChkDsk. How would *you* feel?

Graham Cluley
Graham Cluley
@[email protected]

Those of us of a certain age (or those of us who are still riskily using an ageing soon-to-be-no-longer-supported operating system) will find this screenshot all too familiar:

Windows XP ChkDsk

ChkDsk (“Check Disk”) was a system tool that was frequently run in the bad old days to find bad sectors on the surface of your hard drive.

If you were lucky it would take a several minutes, make things better, and clean-up a few problems on your C: drive. But if you weren’t lucky…

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Let’s hope that security threat analyst Robert Austin and his 38-weeks pregnant wife are lucky.

Austin today tweeted an image of some medical equipment that he photographed as his wife came in for a procedure to “flip the baby”, a not uncommon practice by which a breech baby can be turned around inside the expectant mother, so its head will come out first.

Windows XP in hospital, running ChkDsk

From April, Microsoft will no longer be releasing security updates for Windows XP – opening up the very real possibility that malicious hackers will be able to exploit vulnerabilities and infect systems with gay abandon.

That’s why it’s so important that individuals, companies and – yes – hospitals start thinking as soon as possible about how they are going to upgrade their legacy systems, and move away from an operating system that first saw the light of day in 2001.

Yes, Windows XP is *that* old. It’s on the brink of becoming a teenager. But it’s time for all of us to kick it out of the house, as it’s good-for-nothing anymore and actually is about to put many others at greater risk because it will no longer be maintained.

Our best wishes go to Robert Austin, his wife, and their imminent arrival.

Graham Cluley is an award-winning keynote speaker who has given presentations around the world about cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. A veteran of the computer security industry since the early 1990s, he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows, makes regular media appearances, and is the co-host of the popular "Smashing Security" podcast. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky, or drop him an email.

8 comments on “Pregnant wife’s medical equipment runs Windows XP ChkDsk. How would *you* feel?”

  1. That said, most such devices aren't actually connected to any networks. I'm well aware that in the sciences and medicine, equipment frequently has a lifespan long beyond support for the operating systems. Equipment manufacturers typically produce control applications for whatever OS is current at the time.

    A while ago, I helped a scientist find an XP machine to run a piece of equipment for which the control software would not run under Vista (perhaps someone could have got it running, but they were told that it wouldn't).

    While the equipment manufacturers would love it if hospitals renewed their equipment every couple of years (not to mention researchers in industry and academics), the budgets just aren't there. But on the other hand, most of this antique hardware isn't connected to the Internet.

    (Disclosure: this comment was written using the Google Chrome on a Macintosh running the current operating system.)

  2. Rob

    An item of equipment spotted running XP not so long ago… and this one most definitely IS connected to at least some form of network…

    1. Elliott · in reply to Rob
  3. Stephen Lyons

    I came through Manchester Airport last week and noticed that all the PCs by the departure gates were running XP. The systems used by the staff at my local IKEA are also still running XP. As they can access the stock records of other IKEA stores I can only assume they are all connected to the Internet. I'd hate to be in their CIOs shoes at the moment.

    1. Benjamin · in reply to Stephen Lyons

      The fact that stores can access stock of other stores, does not mean they are all connected to the internet – they're almost certainly not, and rather will be using a private network owned and maintained by IKEA.

      Or at least, you'd really, really hope so…

  4. Benjamin

    The big problem is, as alluded to by John, that (especially within the medical sector) software is written to work with the current OS, and unless new versions are written (and, in most cases, upgrades purchased), then those applications are never going to run (or, only going to run) on Windows XP.

    Without the money to upgrade the hardware, the OS, and the application itself, then it just isn't feasible.

    Realistically, these sort of applications should probably have been written for bespoke environments, but of course Windows development is more common.

  5. Hmmm, yet another – albeit small – piece of scaremongering. If XP was going to be exploited by nasties that have yet to be discovered and patched by Microsoft(r) then surely, after 14 years, it would have happened by now. Can there be any exploits left to be uncovered after April?

    As for the "Bad old days of ChkDsk", I recently had to remove some encrypted files from a Windows 7 PC where the owner had forgotten the password and lo and behold, ChkDsk ran the next time I booted the PC, so it's still there and still has a job to do.

  6. JohnC

    Also worrying is that around 95% of the world's ATMs (ie cash machines) still use XP. Evidently a hardware upgrade would be needed to use a later OS. Too expensive to update was claimed by the article I read.

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