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News archive - July 2017

Cyber thieves cripple NHS systems

Cyber thieves cripple NHS systems

The Government has launched a probe into the cyber attack on NHS IT systems which brought the health service to a standstill.

The global incident on 12 May affected 99 countries including the UK, with at least 47 NHS hospital trusts in England and more than a dozen in Scotland impacted as the thieves demanded a ransom to restore systems.

Described by security experts as ‘the biggest ransomware outbreak in history’, some hospitals were forced to cancel treatment and appointments and many doctors resorted to using pen and paper.

The hardest hit was Barts Health NHS Trust, the largest healthcare organisation in England.

In a statement released on its website on 25 May, two weeks after the attack, it said: “We are steadily bringing our clinical systems back online.

“While it is too early at this stage to speculate about the causes of the disruption, alongside other NHS organisations we will in due course hold an investigation into what happened and apply any lessons we learn.”

While the NHS has said there was no evidence patients’ medical records had been accessed, it was unable to say whether the hackers had the ability to destroy such records.

And, following the attacks, the Government said more than £50m was being spent on improving the security of NHS systems. It is being assisted by experts at GCHQ’s national cyber security centre.

But experts say the latest problems show systems are weak.

John Madelin, chief executive of cyber security specialist, Reliance acsn, said:

“There is also a tendency to use an array of cyber-defence systems which inevitably work in silos and this very-patchwork ‘protection’ lulls institutions into a false sense of security when, in reality, they’re incredibly exposed.”

He added: “Security strategies in the healthcare sector need a holistic treatment, with a more-integrated, better-executed, end-to-end approach.

“The healthcare sector can engineer a culture shift that will make it more resilient to cyberattack, allowing it to provide better care and preventing the need to cancel operations.”

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