The NHS has had more than its fair share of problems recently. The majority of them are a direct or indirect result of insufficient funding, one of which being the security of its’ IT infrastructure. Earlier this year, many hospital trusts saw their computer systems fall victim to an attack by hackers.

Affecting 24 different NHS Trusts, the WannaCry ransomware attack caused plenty of problems. Patients’ records were wiped, appointments, operations and prescriptions were cancelled, and many staff had to resort to using pen and paper. The vulnerability came about from using Windows XP, which is no longer receiving security updates.

The use of outdated technology gave the hackers a window of opportunity to hold the NHS to ransom. A lack of funding made available to update some trusts’ systems is a major reason why the hacking took place, but what can be done to fight back?

Shoring up security

The first step is to take every precaution where security is concerned. This means having the most up-to-date operating systems for computers and servers – Windows 10, in most cases. It also means installing every update available as soon as possible. These updates patch vulnerabilities, minimising the risk of computers and networks becoming infected.

Next, NHS Trusts must have some form of anti-malware software installed. It helps to spot viruses, worms and so on, allowing you to delete them. Performing daily scans is a must, as is reporting even the most minor virus to whoever is responsible for IT within the NHS. Backing up important files for offline use is essential too.

Legal action

In the event of another cyber attack, trying to recoup any losses is a must. Recovering valuable data belonging to patients and staff alike should be top priority. Hiring a specialist litigation law firm is important if different trusts need to take into account a huge amount of laws before trying to recover data.

Taking legal action is a useful step for the NHS to take if a hack occurs again. By hiring litigation and arbitration experts, the service can limit damaging losses. With assistance from the police, tracking down hackers and where the compromised data has gone will make getting it back far easier, along with any money paid in ransom.

Cyber expertise

An essential part of fighting back against future hacking attempts is for the NHS to have cybersecurity experts on board. NHS Digital, the service’s national digital innovation arm, has some working for them. More are needed to work for individual trusts, hospitals and surgeries though, as small-scale hackers may choose to target just one trust or hospital.

In hiring IT or cybersecurity specialists, the NHS will have an extra layer of safety. People who have the right amount of knowledge to prevent and control any attempted hacks will save the service a huge amount of time and money.

More importantly, they will give staff and patients alike peace of mind from knowing that their data is safe and their appointments won’t be lost because someone forgot to update the system. An increase in funding is needed to make this happen, but it will be a wise and vital investment.

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