NHS ‘will be hit by more cyber attacks’

Cyber security top concern for healthcare management professionals, survey reveals, with threat expected to increase

  • Survey of 600 UK healthcare professionals explored cyber security threats and the NHS
  • 89% of respondents say they are ‘concerned’ about cyber security threats, and 34% are ‘very concerned’
  • 55% of respondents identify organised hacktivists as the main source of potential threat
  • All respondents believe the NHS will face increased attacks over the next five years, with 42% expecting ‘a lot more’ attacks to face Britain’s health system
  • Top four areas of weakness identified as inadequate IT architecture/systems; inadequate training for staff on security protocols; compromised users; and not enough skilled staff

Concern about NHS cyber security has increased following the WannaCry attack and healthcare management professionals expect it to come under further attack from ‘organised hacktivists’, according to a new survey of those registered to attend this year’s UK Health Show.

The survey of almost 600 registrants to the show, which is held at Olympia London on 27 September, suggests that leading managers and professionals are worried about similar cyber attacks in the future.

We want those attending our show to learn about the future of digital technology, what it can mean for improving healthcare outcomes, and how NHS organisations can use them to improve efficiency while retaining patient safety

Twice as many agree (40%) than disagree (20%) with the statements that ‘if a similar cyber-attack to the WannaCry ransomware attack happened today, the NHS would be better able to deal with it’.

The WannaCry attack has been called the biggest ransomware offensive in history. More than 300,000 computers were infected in as many as 145 countries when it was unleashed.

In the UK, the NHS was particularly badly hit, with around 50 trusts affected by the virus, which locked staff out of computers and led to ransom demands in Bitcoin.

Some trusts not only shut down email and IT systems, but were forced to close A&E and outpatient departments.

It is no surprise then that cyber security is a top concern for those tasked with running and improving the NHS.

Nine in ten (89%) respondents say they are concerned about the cyber security threats facing the NHS, including as many as a third (34%) who describe themselves as ‘very concerned’.

In addition, virtually all respondents to the survey believe the NHS will face increased attacks over the next five years, with more than two in five (42%) expecting ‘a lot more’ attacks to face Britain’s health system in the future.

Organised hacktivists are most likely to be perceived as the main source of potential attacks against the NHS overall (55% of respondents identify this source), rather than individual hackers (33%). Few perceive that foreign governments (4%) or the private sector (2%) will be the source of cyber attacks.

Alexander Rushton, the UK Health Show event director, said: “We want to help all NHS trusts and those working with the NHS to be prepared and to be resilient in the face of the inevitable cyber security threats the sector will continue to face. This is why technology and cyber security are at the heart of this year’s show.

“Managers and professionals are coming to the show to better understand how the NHS is being protected nationally, learn about what they need to do in their organisation, and meet with colleagues and suppliers that can help them put in the right systems and solutions.”

The top four areas of weakness for the NHS in terms of cyber security are identified as:

  • Inadequate IT architecture/systems (71%)
  • Inadequate training for staff on security protocols (51%)
  • Compromised users (people who have been hacked, but don’t know about it) (51%)
  • Not enough skilled staff to protect IT data or systems (44%)

Healthcare Efficiency through Technology (HETT) and Cyber Security in Healthcare are two of the four main themes of this year’s show.

Presentations will include a focus on NHS Digital’s CareCERT service and how it is helping both IT teams and NHS staff improve digital security; while Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust will share its experience of addressing cyber security issues.

Our visitors are sure that digital technological transformation is important to making the NHS more efficient and they agree that the use of digital technology will increase over the next few years

A panel including Dan Taylor, head of security at NHS Digital; Sarah Pickup, deputy chief executive at the Local Government Association; and DCI Gary Miles from SC07 Organised Crime Command at the Metropolitan Policy, will also debate the likely cyber threats to hit health and care services in 2018 and how to tackle them.

Rushton said: “Our visitors are sure that digital technological transformation is important to making the NHS more efficient and they agree that the use of digital technology will increase over the next few years.

“We want those attending our show to learn about the future of digital technology, what it can mean for improving healthcare outcomes, and how NHS organisations can use them to improve efficiency while retaining patient safety.”

Click here for more on this year’s show.

Companies