Healthcare infrastructure in need of urgent treatment

by Amy Hitchmough on 21 Nov 2016

By WatchGuard Technologies

The UK National Health Service (NHS) is the envy of the world, and even found itself with a starring role in Danny Boyle’s uplifting opening ceremony at the London 2012 Olympics. However, the NHS hasn’t had the best of weeks. It all started off Monday morning with an email on its supposedly secure system being accidentally ‘sent to all’ of its 840,000, causing havoc.

Now, an expose by Sky News has shown just how much NHS trusts are putting patients at risk by not protecting their data against the growing scourge of cyber attacks. Whilst the average annual spend on cyber security was £23,040, seven NHS trusts, serving more than two million people, admitted to spending nothing on cyber security in 2015.

This lack of investment is happening despite NHS Trusts suffering an increasing amount of personal data breaches, up from 3,133 in 2014 to 4,177 last year. With the number of cyber incidents accounting for a breach, rising eight-fold since 2014.

This mirrors an earlier warning from The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) that the UK health sector continues to account for the most data security incidents of any sector. And it is on the rise. Its figures show there was a 44 per cent rise in the number of incidents in the health sector compared to the previous quarter (from 193 in Q1 to 278 in Q2).

As the Information Commissioner warned: “The health service holds some of the most sensitive personal information available, but instead of leading the way in how it looks after that information, the NHS is one of the worst performers.”

The Sky News investigation, carried out using Freedom of Information laws, revealed a postcode lottery when it comes to cyber security. Just last week, two NHS trusts in Lincolnshire were forced to cancel operations after a virus infected their computer systems.

According to the report, the flaws in NHS trusts’ cyber security are down to simple, basic errors such as misconfigured email servers, outdated software and security certificates, and bad emails and passwords management.

As the world becomes ever more connected, and the value of this information to criminals becomes higher, it is imperative that we do all we can to keep patients private data just that, private. WatchGuard delivers a wide range of solutions designed to help NHS trusts address the compliance and security shortcomings highlighted in this report, and create a culture of security throughout their day-to-day clinical and business activities. More information here.

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