How NHS Digital is meeting COVID-19 cybersecurity challenges

Earlier response to the WannaCry crisis has helped create an infrastructure where UK healthcare organizations get better security support and threat intelligence

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The UK’s National Health Service (NHS), a unified healthcare organization with a broad collection of moving parts, is working to provide a good cybersecurity baseline for the groups it supports during the COVID-19 crisis. That effort is complicated by limited budget and the need to deliver healthcare services without disruption. New support services and a reformed proposed a single, centrally mandated electronic care record for patients and healthcare organizations. Dubbed in the UK press as “,” the project was cancelled in 2011. That failure led to the NHS leaving each trust to mind its own IT infrastructure.

The impact of WannaCry on the NHS showed that the independent model had major issues. The 2017 ransomware attack affected at least 81 of 236 NHS trusts as well as 603 primary care and other organisations, including 595 GP offices. Some 70,000 devices – including computers, MRI scanners, blood-storage refrigerators and theatre equipment – were affected while patient data and email services were unavailable. Cost estimates for the attack have been pegged at around £92 million. 

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