Government Defends IT Policy After Ransomeware Hits NHS

The Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has defended the decision of the government to refrain from funding critical updates for NHS computer systems.

This resulted in the NHS computer network being vulnerable to cyber attacks, as has been widely documented over the last few days.

Yet Fallon appeared on BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, and effectively blamed health trusts for files being left open to hackers.

The presenter had asked the Defence Secretary why upgrades had not been purchased back in 2015.

“That was an old system, we didn’t want [NHS Trusts] to use that system, we wanted them to use modern systems that are better protected,” Fallon replied.

The minister went on to suggest that trust had been continually warned about the dangers of failing to update operating systems, also conceding that the government must take some responsibility.

Yet he defended government policy by indicating that £1.9 billion had been set aside in order to tackle cyber threats, with £50 million being diverted into NHS coffers.

“We’re spending around £50 million on the NHS cyber systems to improve their security. We have encouraged NHS trusts to reduce their exposure to the weakest system – the Windows XP – only 5 per cent, less than five per cent of the trusts, actually use that system any more and there is money available to strengthen their systems,” Fallon commented.

The Defence Secretary also called on all those involved with the healthcare system to collaborate with the government in order to eliminate further threats.

“We all have to work at this, the NHS wasn’t particularly targeted… but let me assure you, we are spending money on strengthening the cyber defence of our hospital system.”

But Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, was critical of government policy, suggesting that cuts have directly led to such problems occurring.

“We’ve seen huge investments cuts in the infrastructure of the NHS. In the last year £1bn taken out of infrastructure in order to plug wider gaps in the NHS. The Government have been rather complacent, when they were warned about a cyber security attack on the NHS.”

With threats of new ransomware being targeted at major organisations and institutions, Oliver Gower, of the UK’s National Crime Agency, indicated that the authorities will do everything possible in order to catch criminals.

“Cyber criminals may believe they are anonymous but we will use all the tools at our disposal to bring them to justice.”

 

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