Comment

02.05.18

Is the NHS ready for another WannaCry?

Source: NHE March/April 2018

NHE’s Seamus McDonnell on the plans put in place to protect trusts and other NHS organisations from potential future cyber-attacks.

In May 2017, the NHS’s cyber protection plans were thrust into the limelight after a ransomware programme called WannaCry exposed the weaknesses in current systems – but, nearly a year later, there are still no trusts able to pass NHS Digital’s security inspections.

Out of 200 trusts assessed by the organisation in February 2018, not one was up to the standards set by inspectors, prompting fears the system could be unprepared for a similar kind of attack.

The revelation came at a Public Accounts Committee inquiry where NHS Digital’s deputy chief executive, Rob Shaw, told ministers there was still a “considerable amount” of work left to do to reach standards for cyber security.

Shaw explained that the issue was around ‘patching,’ but reassured ministers that the standards set by the country’s national data guardian, Dame Fiona Caldicott, would take time to reach.

“The amount of effort it takes from NHS providers in such a complex estate to reach the ‘Cyber Essentials Plus’ standard that we assess against, as per the recommendation in Caldicott’s report, is quite a high bar,” he added.

“So, some of them have failed purely on patching, which was the vulnerability around WannaCry.”

The WannaCry attack that began on 12 May is thought to have affected 81 trusts across the country, as well as computers at almost 600 GP surgeries. In total there could have been up to 70,000 devices infected, according to the National Audit Office (NAO).

The programme locked users out of their machines and demanded $300 in return for access to the computer’s hard drive, throwing a number of trusts into turmoil and forcing nearly 7,000 appointments to be cancelled across England.

Despite greater preparations, there are still fears that the systems in place may not be able to support the NHS should a major cyber-attack hit trusts again, especially considering the service had already been warned of a potential future incident up to a year before WannaCry occurred.

A report written by the NAO in October last year scolded the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England for not doing enough to prepare for the threat, arguing that there was no formal mechanism in place to ensure trusts conformed with guidelines and moved away from outdated operating systems like Windows XP.

The criticism, combined with the WannaCry attack itself, has prompted the government to impose much stricter guidelines and assessments on the capability of NHS bodies.

Shaw, who has served as both chief operating officer and interim chief executive since joining NHS Digital in April 2016, said his organisation had inspected 200 trusts since the attack, a significant rise on the approximately 90 trusts assessed before the incident.

“I always take it better to have information, to know where your vulnerabilities are, so that you can do something about it rather than hope that you will be okay when you do get an attack,” he explained. “These vulnerability reports go back to the trusts and their trust boards to be able to work out how they can then do mitigation.

“Some need to do quite a considerable amount of work, but a number of them are already on the journey that will take them towards meeting that requirement.”

The increasing number of assessments must be a positive, and Shaw’s attitude to their improvement seems to show an overall development in the quality of cyber protection – but, with none of these organisations passing their tests, it is not clear whether the system is truly prepared quite yet.

 

Enjoying NHE? Subscribe here to receive our weekly news updates or click here to receive a copy of the magazine!

Comments

There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

 

national health executive tv

more videos >

latest healthcare news

Struggling Cornwall trust appoints permanent chief executive to lead it out of special measures

18/01/2019Struggling Cornwall trust appoints permanent chief executive to lead it out of special measures

The Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust (RCHT) has announced that Kate Shields, the current interim chief executive, has been appointed to lead the tr... more >
Bradford hospitals trust fined by CQC after breaching its duty of candour

18/01/2019Bradford hospitals trust fined by CQC after breaching its duty of candour

Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS FT (BTH) has been fined by the CQC after failing to apologise to a family in time after a safety incident, breaki... more >
Substantial deficits across NHS ‘do not paint a picture of sustainability’ and threaten long-term plan, warns spending watchdog

18/01/2019Substantial deficits across NHS ‘do not paint a picture of sustainability’ and threaten long-term plan, warns spending watchdog

The NHS is not financially sustainable and substantial deficits at NHS bodies, year-on-year increases in waiting lists and waiting times, and sta... more >
681 149x260 NHE Subscribe button

the scalpel's daily blog

Gentleness: an underrated quality in effective leadership

14/01/2019Gentleness: an underrated quality in effective leadership

Dean Royles, strategic workforce advisor at Skills for Health and co-author of ‘An Introduction to Human Resource Management,’ returns to write for NHE for his blog series on effective leadership. “It is not in your top three, Dean…” The difficulty in asking for feedback is that sometimes, occasionally, people will be honest with you. It can be humbling and troubling in equal measure. It’s somet... more >
read more blog posts from 'the scalpel' >

interviews

How can winter pressures be dealt with? Introduce a National Social Care Service, RCP president suggests

24/10/2018How can winter pressures be dealt with? Introduce a National Social Care Service, RCP president suggests

A dedicated national social care service could be a potential solution to surging demand burdening acute health providers over the winter months,... more >
RCP president on new Liverpool college building: ‘This will be a hub for clinicians in the north’

24/10/2018RCP president on new Liverpool college building: ‘This will be a hub for clinicians in the north’

The president of the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has told NHE that the college’s new headquarters based in Liverpool will become a hu... more >
Duncan Selbie: A step on the journey to population health

24/01/2018Duncan Selbie: A step on the journey to population health

The NHS plays a part in the country’s wellness – but it’s far from being all that matters. Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Pu... more >
Cutting through the fake news

22/11/2017Cutting through the fake news

In an era of so-called ‘fake news’ growing alongside a renewed focus on reducing stigma around mental health, Paul Farmer, chief exec... more >

last word

Hard to be optimistic

Hard to be optimistic

Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, warns that we must be realistic about the very real effects of continued underfunding across the health service. It’s now bey... more > more last word articles >

editor's comment

25/09/2017A hotbed of innovation

This edition of NHE comes hot on the heels of this year’s NHS Expo which, once again, proved to be a huge success at Manchester Central. A number of announcements were made during the event, with the health secretary naming the second wave of NHS digital pioneers, or ‘fast followers’, which follow the initial global digital e... read more >

health service focus

Innovative mobile solution meeting NHS demand

07/01/2019Innovative mobile solution meeting NHS demand

EMS Healthcare report on the first fleet of m... more >
National Health Executive fuels the Northern Powerhouse with official partnership

21/11/2018National Health Executive fuels the Northern Powerhouse with official partnership

Cognitive Publishing, the home of leading hea... more >