NHS 'remains vulnerable to cyber attack'

Published on: 3 Jul 2019

The NHS is still vulnerable to cyber attacks, according to a new white paper on cyber security presented at the House of Lords this week.

Researchers at Imperial College London's Institute of Global Health Innovation warned urgent measures need to be taken if patient safety is to be protected.

The report blamed outdated digital systems, a lack of technical skills among staff and a reduction in budgets for making NHS hospitals easy targets for hackers.

Lead author Professor Ara Darzi warned any attack could leave staff unable to access patient data such as X-rays, prevent life-saving devices from working properly and even lead to patient data being stolen or manipulated.

The NHS found itself under digital attack in 2017 when it was hit by the WannaCry ransomware incident, with hundreds of members of staff locked out of their computer networks. Some NHS services had to be suspended and ambulances were even turned away from affected facilities.

Professor Darzi and his team urged the NHS to build security measures into new medical technology such as implantable devices, employ cyber security professionals in their IT staff and ensure teams can easily access cyber security help.

"For the safety of patients, it is critical to ensure that the data, devices and systems that uphold our NHS - and therefore our nation's health - are secure," he added.