The NHS is at Risk of Cyberattacks, Says UK Minister

A U.K. minister for Cabinet has said that cyberattacks present a real threat to the National Health Service (NHS) in the U.K., according to a report from The Telegraph.

In an article for the U.K. daily newspaper, Ben Gummer, minister for Cabinet, said that ‘large quantities of sensitive data’ accessed by the NHS and the U.K. government is targeted by cyberattacks.

Today the U.K. government revealed that it plans to spend £1.9 billion on improving the country’s cybersecurity. Philip Hammond, the Chancellor is expected to announce that it plans to invest in a new unit that is built to hit back at those intent on doing harm to the U.K.

Gummer is reported as saying that this is no longer the stuff of TV or movies with hackers of all ages and organizations now a potential threat.

He said:

Attacks can cause economic damage, erode public trust in online services and by enabling fraud do real harm to individuals, their property and their privacy.

Recently Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Trust in the north-east of England had to shut down its IT systems after there were reports that a virus had infected it, according to a report from the BBC. With hundreds of planned operations and outpatient appointments cancelled only high risk women in labor and major trauma cases were being diverted to neighboring hospitals.

After shutting down the majority of their systems to attempt to isolate and destroy the virus, Dr Karen Dunderdale, NLAG deputy chief executive, said to the BBC that:

We are reviewing the situation on an hourly basis. Our clinicians will continue to see, treat and operate on those patients who would be at significant clinical risk should their treatment be delayed.

Medical records in the U.S. have been vulnerable to cyberattacks after it was reported that nearly nine million American medical records had been breached in August 2016. Talking about the risk of cyberattacks on the NHS, Gummer said that the government had a responsibility to make sure that its systems were cyber secure. He added that everyone needs to take more measures to ensure that hackers can’t target individuals.

He said:

These practices need to become second nature, like putting on a seatbelt or locking the front door.

According to Hammond, it was only until recently that cyber criminals had been sending spoof emails to government addresses over 50,000 times a day in a bid to gain access to personal information.

A Cyber Security Research Institute is expected to be unveiled, which is designed to work at getting rid of passwords while over 50 cybercrime investigators are expected to work with the National Cyber Crime unit to target hackers at national and international levels.

Hammond added:

Britain is already an acknowledged global leader in cyber security thanks to our investment of over £860 million in the last Parliament, but we must now keep up with the scale and pace of the threats we face.

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