Tuesday, 21 November, 2017

North Korea blamed for cyber attack on Cumbrian hospitals

A cyber-attack which crippled a third of NHS hospitals in May could have easily been prevented according to the National Audit Office A cyber-attack which crippled a third of NHS hospitals in May could have easily been prevented according to the National Audit Office
Lucas Bell | 28 October, 2017, 01:05

Mr Wallace spoke after the National Audit Office published a scathing report yesterday, which reported that the cyber attack had affected computers at 81 English health trusts plus almost 600 GP surgeries, stating that the cyber attack could have been prevented if "basic IT security" measures to update protections had been taken.

North Korea has been publicly blamed by the UK's Security Minister for the WannaCry cyber attack which hit the NHS earlier this year.

In May, the largest ever cyberattack on the health service left hundreds of NHS computers infected, leading to thousands of appointments being cancelled and some A&E departments having to turn away ambulances.

"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".

In 2014, the DoH and the Cabinet Office informed trusts of the need for plans to upgrade IT software by April 2015.

"[WannaCry] was a relatively unsophisticated attack and could have been prevented by the NHS following basic IT security best practice", NAO chief Amyas Morse said in the statement.

NHS Digital told the NAO that it believes no patient data were compromised or stolen.

Cyber security researchers quickly identified a possible link to North Korea.

At least 6,900 NHS appointments were cancelled as a result of the attack.

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No NHS organisation paid the ransom but the government does not know how much the disruption to services cost the NHS, it said.

According to NHS Digital, the attack could have been prevented by installing security patches and correctly implementing firewalls on outdated and unsupported NHS computers.

What's particularly surprising about the NAO report is that actions had been taken to better prepare the NHS for a cyber attack of this nature - but the Department of Health had been slow to respond to recommendations and there appears to be a significant lack of control around ensuring that the NHS responds to requirements.

To be fair, the Department of Health had developed a plan - it was just that it had not been properly communicated or tested in the NHS trusts. Furthermore, there had been no rehearsals of a cyber-attack on the NHS, which meant understanding of who would lead the response was unclear, says the report.

The NAO said the NHS has accepted that there are lessons to learn from WannaCry and is already taking action to improve the protection of services from future cyber attacks.

All were running computer systems - the majority Windows 7 - that had not been updated to secure them against such attacks.

Details of an investigation undertaken by the National Audit Office have been released today.

In one way, the NHS was lucky - if, instead of a Friday in May, the attack had taken place on a Monday in winter, with a week's appointments affected, the damage would have been far worse.

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