Supporting British Healthcare Cybersecurity During COVID-19

The current crisis is an opportunity for the UK government to show agility in how it deals with cyber threats and how it cooperates with the private sector in creating cyber resilience.  By Joyce Hakmeh
 
The World Health Organization, US Department of Health and Human Services, and hospitals in Spain, France and the Czech Republic have all suffered cyberattacks during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

In the Czech Republic, a successful attack targeted a hospital with one of the country’s biggest COVID-19 testing laboratories, forcing its entire IT network to shut down, urgent surgical operations to be rescheduled, and patients to be moved to nearby hospitals. The attack also delayed dozens of COVID-19 test results and affected the hospital’s data transfer and storage, affecting the healthcare the hospital could provide.

In the UK, the National Health Service (NHS) is already in crisis mode, focused on providing beds and ventilators to respond to one of the largest peacetime threats ever faced. But supporting the health sector goes beyond increasing human resources and equipment capacity.

Health Services Ill-Prepared
Cybersecurity support, both at organizational and individual level, is critical so health professionals can carry on saving lives, safely and securely. Yet this support is currently missing and the health services may be ill-prepared to deal with the aftermath of potential cyberattacks.

When the NHS was hit by the Wannacry ransomware attack in 2017 - one of the largest cyberattacks the UK has witnessed to date – it caused massive disruption, with at least 80 of the 236 trusts across England affected and thousands of appointments and operations cancelled. Fortunately, a ‘kill-switch’ activated by a cybersecurity researcher quickly brought it to a halt.

But the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), has been warning for some time against a cyber attack targeting national critical infrastructure sectors, including the health sector. A similar attack, known as category one (C1) attack, could cripple the UK with devastating consequences. It could happen and we should be prepared.

Although the NHS has taken measures since Wannacry to improve cybersecurity, its enormous IT networks, legacy equipment and the overlap between the operational and information technology (OT/IT) does mean mitigating current potential threats are beyond its ability.

The threats have radically increased. More NHS staff with access to critical systems and patient health records are increasingly working remotely.

The NHS has also extended its physical presence with new premises, such as the Nightingale hospital, potentially the largest temporary hospital in the world.

Radical change frequently means proper cybersecurity protocols are not put in place. Even existing cybersecurity processes had to be side-stepped because of the outbreak, such as the decision by NHS Digital to delay its annual cybersecurity audit until September. During this audit, health and care organizations submit data security and protection toolkits to regulators setting out their cybersecurity and cyber resilience levels.

The decision to delay was made to allow the NHS organizations to focus capacity on responding to COVID-19, but cybersecurity was highlighted as a high risk, and the importance of NHS and Social Care remaining resilient to cyberattacks was stressed.

The NHS is stretched to breaking point. Expecting it to be on top of its cybersecurity during these exceptionally challenging times is unrealistic, and could actually add to the existing risk.

Now is the time where new partnerships and support models should be emerging to support the NHS and help build its resilience. Now is the time where innovative public-private partnerships on cybersecurity should be formed.

Similar to the economic package from the UK chancellor and innovative thinking on ventilator production, the government should oversee a scheme calling on the large cybersecurity capacity within the private sector to step in and assist the NHS. This support can be delivered in many different ways, but it must be mobilized swiftly.

The NCSC for instance has led the formation of the Cyber Security Information Sharing Partnership (CiSP)— a joint industry and UK government initiative to exchange cyber threat information confidentially in real time with the aim of reducing the impact of cyberattacks on UK businesses.

CiSP comprises organizations vetted by NCSC which go through a membership process before being able to join. These members could conduct cybersecurity assessment and penetration testing for NHS organizations, retrospectively assisting in implementing key security controls which may have been overlooked.

They can also help by making sure NHS remote access systems are fully patched and advising on sensible security systems and approved solutions. They can identify critical OT and legacy systems and advise on their security.

The British National Cyber security Centre (NCSC) should continue working with the NHS to enhance provision of public comprehensive guidance on cyber defence and response to potential attack. This would show they are on top of the situation, projecting confidence and reassurance.

It is often said in every crisis lies an opportunity. This is an opportunity for the UK government to show agility in how it deals with cyber threats and how it cooperates with the private sector in creating cyber resilience.  It is an opportunity to lead a much-needed cultural change showing cybersecurity should never be an afterthought.

____________________________________

Joyce Hakmeh is Senior Research Fellow, International Security Programme and Co-Editor, Journal of Cyber Policy at Chatham House.

You Might Also Read:

Cyber Breaches Will Kill:

IoT – Pandemics, Opportunities And Massive Data Risks:

 

 

« The Risks Of Remote Working
New Cyber Security Jobs »

Perimeter 81

Directory of Suppliers

ZenGRC

ZenGRC

ZenGRC - the first, easy-to-use, enterprise-grade information security solution for compliance and risk management - offers businesses efficient control tracking, testing, and enforcement.

eBook: Practical Guide to Security in the AWS Cloud

eBook: Practical Guide to Security in the AWS Cloud

AWS Marketplace would like to present you with a digital copy of the new book, Practical Guide to Security in the AWS Cloud, by the SANS Institute.

CYRIN

CYRIN

CYRIN® Cyber Range. Real Tools, Real Attacks, Real Scenarios. See why leading educational institutions and companies in the U.S. have begun to adopt the CYRIN® system.

Clayden Law

Clayden Law

Clayden Law are experts in information technology, data privacy and cybersecurity law.

IT Governance

IT Governance

IT Governance is a leading global provider of information security solutions. Download our free guide and find out how ISO 27001 can help protect your organisation's information.

MIRACL

MIRACL

MIRACL provides the world’s only single step Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) which can replace passwords on 100% of mobiles, desktops or even Smart TVs.

Eversheds Sutherland

Eversheds Sutherland

Eversheds Sutherland is a global multinational law practice offering a full range of commercial and IT law services including Privacy, Data Protection and Cyersecurity.

Grid32

Grid32

Grid32 provide penetration testing, vulnerability assessments, software code audits, training and incident response services.

CQR

CQR

CQR is an independent provider of information security services, operating globally from offices in Australia, UK and USA.

GardPass Cyber Security

GardPass Cyber Security

GardPass Cyber specializes in cyber security recruitment and also offers complementary services such as security assessments and advice.

SGCyberSecurity

SGCyberSecurity

SGCyberSecurity is Singapore's No.1 Cyber Security portal. From this platform, you will be able to find useful articles, resources and connect with the security companies for your business needs.

GuardiCore

GuardiCore

GuardiCore is an innovator in internal data center security and breach detection and is transforming security inside data centers and clouds.

Digital Ship

Digital Ship

Digital Ship provides news, information, conferences and events focused on digital ship systems, information technology and security relating to maritime operations.

Bird & Bird

Bird & Bird

Bird & Bird is an international law firm with a focus on helping organisations being changed by technology and the digital world. Areas of expertise include cyber security.

National Cyber Security Authority (NCA)

National Cyber Security Authority (NCA)

The NCA is the government entity in charge of cybersecurity in Saudi Arabia and serves as the national authority on its affairs.

FRSecure

FRSecure

FRSecure is a full-service information security management company that protects sensitive, confidential business information from unauthorized access, disclosure, distribution and destruction.

Women in CyberSecurity (WiCyS)

Women in CyberSecurity (WiCyS)

Women in CyberSecurity (WiCyS) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the recruitment, retention and advancement of women in the cybersecurity field.

RapidScale

RapidScale

RapidScale’s managed cloud solutions provide reliable, innovative, and secure services, all complete with white-glove service and full management options.