NHS hospitals told to swallow stronger anti-ransomware medication

New cyber triage to fight malware plagues

NHS Digital is set to start expanding the range of cybersecurity services available to UK hospitals and clinics.

CareCERT (Care Computer Emergency Response Team) launched in November 2015, offering a national service that helps health and care organisations to improve their cybersecurity defences by providing proactive advice and guidance about the latest threats and security best practices.

A service that initially focused on pushing out alerts about threats will be expanded to include three new services, each of which begins testing this month:

  • CareCERT Knowledge – a new e-learning portal to help all health and care organisations train their staff in cybersecurity basics.
  • CareCERT Assure – a service to help organisations assess their local cybersecurity measures against industry standards, including recommendations on how to reduce vulnerabilities.
  • CareCERT React – advice on reducing the impact of a data security incident.

Public health and innovation minister Nicola Blackwood announced the expansion at the Health and Care Innovation Expo on Thursday. The rollouts come at a time of increasing security threats to UK hospitals and clinics, particularly from file-encrypting ransomware.

Almost half (47 per cent) of NHS trusts have been subject to a ransomware attack in the past year, according to figures from a freedom of information (FOI) request published last month. NCC Group’s FOI is based on requests to 60 trusts, 28 of which confirmed they had been victims of ransomware.

Independent infosec consultant Brian Honan, the founder and head of Ireland’s CERT, told El Reg that the increase in security services ought to be considered as a move to drive security improvements in UK hospitals in general, rather than a specific response to the ransomware threat.

"I do not see this as a reaction to ransomware as a recent FOI request submitted by Channel 4 showed that out of 152 NHS Trusts 39 were affected by ransomware," Honan explained. "However, with the rising number of threats against computer systems this is a welcome and prudent move to enhance the security of the data, computers, systems, and networks the NHS increasingly relies on to provide its services." ®


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