Over the years, cyber security is something that has become increasingly important to the NHS. In May 2017 a computer virus attack was launched on the NHS, known as WannaCry. Many may remember how it encrypted data on infected computers, and demanded a ransom payment. This had huge ramifications on data protection risks and the ability to provide care to patients. Although individual trusts were previously attack before May, it is considered the largest cyber-attack on the NHS in England.
At the National Health Executive, we have teamed up with SonicWall to find out what we can learn from the pandemic and what the current threats are.
There have since been initiatives formed by NHS England such as the Cyber Security Programme, in collaboration with NHS Digital and NHS Improvement, aiming to put in practice lessons learned from the WannaCry attack. This includes ensuring that critical cyber alerts are completed, and reassuring those in the NHS that cyber security is considered at board level, as well as being managed as an ongoing board level risk.
But it was only in May this year that the Republic of Ireland's Health Service Executive shut down their IT systems, after being targeted in what he described as a "significant ransomware attack". The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) released their annual review last year, outlining how cyber security was impacted by the pandemic. The NCSC found that more than 200 out the 723 incidents they dealt with, were related to Covid-19, which meant deploying experts to support the health sector.
Without the right cyber security protection, organisations could be left vulnerable to attacks, leading to negative impacts on clinical outcomes and disrupted patient care.