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Why The NHS Is Suffering A Cyber Security Crisis And How It Will Have To Adapt

For decades, the UK’s National Health Service has been a template for how to do socialised healthcare right. It has provided Government-funded, taxpayer-backed healthcare to billions of citizens and helped to show the world how healthcare can be made accessible to everyone, regardless of wealth.

However, over recent years, the NHS has faced many challenges. As the service grew and became the backbone of the UK’s healthcare market, it has had to contend with the problems that arise from being relied upon by so many people. From vast backlogs of patients waiting for treatment to staff shortages, the organisation now has many obstacles to overcome.

One of the issues that has arisen more recently is the NHS’s cyber security issues. Over recent years, the NHS has suffered a series of cyber attacks, including one on a key supplier that caused widespread outages across the organisation.

So, why is the NHS not more vigilant and how can it adapt going forward? We answer these questions in this article to help IT specialists see the issues and how they can shape the narrative themselves.

An Increased Reliance On Technology

Technology has come a long way in a short period of time, particularly in the healthcare market. Almost every aspect of the healthcare landscape has been digitalised, including inventory management, patient records and scheduling appointments.

The NHS has embraced these developments and is actively working towards a long-term plan for further technology adoption, including digitalising all documents and going paperless by 2024. The health service already uses many different technological systems and tools, and it is eager to include more solutions that will help it to save time and still deliver the best possible level of care to its patients. With the implementation of more technology comes a greater risk of a cyber attack. The more information that’s stored digitally, and the more technology the organisation uses, the greater the potential for online criminals to disrupt the service.

The High Value Of The NHS’s Data

As an organisation that provides life-saving healthcare services and is becoming increasingly digitalised, the NHS has a lot of highly sensitive information on its patients. This includes healthcare records, contact details and financial information for patients who have to cover private costs, such as prescription fees.

With so much high-value data to protect, the NHS is a potentially lucrative target for cyber criminals, which is why so many have attacked the organisation and its suppliers over the past few years. Healthcare data can be sold for high prices to businesses or criminal gangs, and has a wide variety of applications, so the NHS cyber security crisis is incredibly serious for patients across the UK.

A Lack Of Internal Cyber Security Expertise

While the NHS has many skilled healthcare professionals, it’s struggled to attract high-value cyber security experts away from the lucrative private sector. There’s already a skills shortage within the IT landscape, and so the NHS has faced many challenges when trying to hire the experts needed to shore up its cyber security procedures and extensive IT infrastructure.

As a result, the service might have to explore working with outside service providers in the future. Companies like ROCK offer dedicated cyber security services to a wide range of large organisations, and services like theirs would be invaluable for protecting large and high-value IT infrastructures like that of the NHS. For more information, visit rock.co.uk. Using outsourced service providers like these could be a simple way for the NHS to quickly improve its cyber security without having to invest heavily in internal team members.

Limited Resources

Whatever you think of the NHS, you’ve got to admit that the organisation has always been adept at doing a lot of vital work with limited resources. As a government-funded organisation, it has to cope with constantly stretched budgets and a regular influx of new patients. Healthcare is a crucial industry, so it’s impossible for the NHS to turn away anyone who needs support, but providing them with the care they need can be challenging with limited resources.

With budgets stretched across the NHS, it’s understandable that cyber security perhaps might not be a major focus. In 2018, it was revealed that some NHS trusts spend as little as £250 per year on cyber security, showing the lack of resources devoted to this particularly important sector. Over recent years, as the NHS has become more digitalised and connected, cyber security is in even higher demand across the service, but budgets remain tight as some trusts battle to pay for everything they need to provide the life-saving care their patients require.

Slow Take-Up By The Organisation And Government

Cyber security is a key part of any organisation, but the UK government and the NHS’s leadership have been slow to realise how crucial it is to the healthcare service. With the push to digitalise records and introduce new technologies to help relieve the massive backlogs the system faces, the NHS has failed to implement robust cyber security measures that will keep the organisation’s data and IT infrastructure safe.

Recently, the UK government announced that it would be devising a new cyber security strategy for the NHS, which would be released shortly and would be implemented over the coming years. While this could be a great success, it does highlight how slow the government has been in realising the importance of a cutting-edge cyber security plan for the NHS, despite its increasing focus on technology in the organisation.

Constant Cyber Security Developments

Keeping up with the latest developments in the cyber security landscape is hard work for even the most well-funded major corporations. As such, it’s understandable that the NHS, which is chronically underfunded and has extensive delivery targets to meet, would struggle to keep up and deal with new issues.

As AI tools make it easier for scammers to develop malicious code and potentially penetrate security barriers, there are even greater threats for all organisations, and these will be intensified in the near future. So, the NHS needs to not only fortify its existing protections, but also protect itself against the new vulnerabilities that could put it at risk of a cyber attack in today’s digital market.

The NHS’s Cyber Security Crisis: To Sum Up

For a wide range of reasons, the NHS is currently woefully unprepared for a cyber attack and doesn’t have the cyber security procedures and tools in place to protect its valuable cache of data. Throughout the technology landscape, experts need to be lending their voices to sharing why this is the case and what the NHS and UK government can do to improve the outlook as we look towards the future.

While the government’s upcoming cyber security strategy should help to drive a greater understanding of and focus on the issue within the NHS, it will need to be adapted regularly to deal with the many new technologies and issues the market is facing. So, the NHS will require ongoing work to ensure that it catches up with today’s cyber security requirements and stay on top of new ones that will occur over the coming months and years.