Research findings from a study by VMWare and Intel have highlighted the concerns of IT decision makers in the NHS. According to the study, almost a third of respondents were ‘certain' that confidential patient data had been infiltrated by hackers; and more than 80 per cent were confident that the same had happened to staff records.
Worryingly, more than a third of leaders say that their team lacks the skills to improve cybersecurity infrastructure and strategy. Almost two-thirds (62 per cent) say that attacks on equipment or facilities could lead to patients coming to harm.
Cyber attacks are also affecting the provision of NHS services, with 29 per cent of IT leaders saying that they have had to cancel or postpone appointments following an incident, and 26 per cent doing the same for a research project.
Following an attack, 28 per cent of respondents said that they had lost ‘skilled staff'; 70 per cent said that they need more funds to take on employees with the right skills to keep pace with changing cyber threats; the government's £21 million funding is expected to help with this.
The threat of human error is very worrying for NHS IT leaders. Although they said that most data was leaked by hacker groups or individual cyber criminals (50 per cent and 49 percent, respectively), NHS staff (32 per cent) and patients (30 percent) were close behind, showing that more training is necessary.
Tim Hearn, director of UK government and public services at VMware, said, "The NHS is facing an uphill battle in keeping patient data safe against a backdrop of more persistent and diverse threats which increasingly target applications, bypassing traditional security. It needs to modernise its approach and focus on protection from the inside out; this means investing more than the 10 percent of IT budget on security that it currently sets aside.
"Its leaders are clearly saying two things - that the risk of data breach will have a significant negative impact on patients and the UK as a whole, and that they need more support, investment and skills in remaining secure. A huge part of this is introducing a ‘People, Process and Technology' approach to security - ensuring that, as well as having the right technology in place, people receive the right training and education to help tackle the threat."
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