NHS hack 'could have been prevented'

Oct 28, 2017, 00:11
NHS hack 'could have been prevented'

The report also reveals concerns over the Department of Health's (DoH) reaction to warnings of NHS cyber-attacks.

The WannaCry ransomware attack back in May was a global event and affected many organisations beyond the NHS.

The malware encrypted data on infected computers and demanded a ransom roughly equivalent to £230 ($300).

Amyas Morse, the head of the National Audit Office, on Friday criticized the preparedness of the N.H.S.

A consequent theme in its findings is that the Department of Health "does not know" the answers to numerous questions the NAO asked.

For many executives, a serious cyber-attack is now very high on their list of risks to their organisations and a priority for disaster planning.

Prior to the attack, NHS Digital had conducted an on-site cyber-security assessment for 88 out of 236 trusts, and none had passed.

Prior to the attack, the Department of Health didn't have any formal mechanism for checking whether local NHS organisations were following their advice on cybersecurity issues.

Occurring on 12 May this year, the WannaCry virus infected computers around the world, including computers in a large number of NHS trusts across the UK.

An NAO report found computers at one third of health trusts across England were infected along with computers at nearly 600 GP surgeries.

6912 appointments, including operations, were cancelled because of the ransomware.

Researchers said that the attack led to disruption in over a third (34%) of trusts and caused around 19,000 appointments to be cancelled.

This included with five hospitals, including the West Cumberland Hospital, having divert ambulances away after being locked out of computers. National and local NHS staff worked overtime including over the weekend of 13 to 14 May to resolve problems and to prevent a fresh wave of organisations being affected by WannaCry on Monday May 15.

"I think at this point that all observers in the know have concluded that WannaCry was caused by North Korea using cyber tools or weapons that were stolen from the National Security Agency in the United States", Smith said.

'In the digital age, it is abundantly clear that a 21st Century health service should have been far better prepared for a cyber-attack'.

Organisations could also have better managed their computers' firewalls - but in many cases they did not, it said.

Infected organisations had unpatched, or unsupported Windows operating systems so were susceptible to the ransomware.

It's a shame that it takes a major incident like WannaCry - which was entirely preventable - to make the government and the NHS think about their ability to respond to cyber attacks.

Hospitals were found to have been running out-of-date computer systems, such as Windows XP and Windows 7 - that had not been updated to secure them against such attacks.

"There are more sophisticated cyber-threats out there than WannaCry so the Department and the NHS need to get their act together to ensure the NHS is better protected against future attacks".

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