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Hacks could get worse, experts warn

 
Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Hacks could get worse, experts warn

The NHS was held to ransom last week by news organisations threatening to bore staff to death with endless coverage of an IT security breach.

Staff who hoped to follow the general election on their computers were confronted by demands to watch hundreds of hours of interviews with security experts and NHS England officials.

“It was terrible,” said a hospital manager, who declined to exist for fear of reprisals. “One minute I was watching Jeremy Corbyn defend his record on national security, the next my screen froze and I found myself in the middle of something even duller.”

Experts said that an international network of hacks could be behind the attack, which involved broadcasting the same message over and over again, rendering most devices unusable and causing their users to lose the will to live.

Code red faces all round

NHS IT chiefs responded by immediately stepping up security rhetoric to the highest level. After initial fears that someone may have forgotten to install routine software patches or had left the password to the server in the canteen, the NHS Digital press office declared that the NHS was in “code red full lockdown following a targeted cyber attack”.

An NHS Digital spokesman said that the attack succeeded despite the deployment of highly secure ultra-modern software such as Microsoft Windows XP throughout the NHS.

There were fears about disruption to services as doctors were diverted to television studios to give lengthy interviews about the dangers of treating patients with no access to Google or email.

Make IT go away

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt, who was on his bicycle at the time, said that nothing was his fault.

The hacks’ motives for the attack remain unclear. One theory is that they are designed to make coverage of the main parties’ election campaigns look interesting.

Users of vital BBC services reported that they would be willing to pay a high price for the onslaught to stop. One desperate viewer said: “Anything would be better than this, even if it means watching wall to wall coverage of Theresa May touring the north-east in a bus.”

Experts warn that NHS hacks are likely to get worse in future.

International cyber-terrorism editor: Julian Patterson

@jtweeterson
julian.patterson@networks.nhs.uk