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Hunt Ignores Ransomware Threats

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Jeremy Hunt

In an article published in the British Medical Journal, Dr Krishna Chinthapalli, a neurology registrar,  warned of such attacks  by ransomware this year…writes Dr Kailash Chand

Jeremy Hunt

Many hospitals use proprietary software that runs on ancient operating systems. NHS Trust’s computers attacked by ransomware are probably running Windows XP. Released in 2001, it is now obsolete.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt needs to urgently review the security software of all the NHS computers and release extra funding for upgrading the systems urgently.

About 40 NHS organisations are thought to have been affected by Friday’s bug. In the UK, computers in hospitals and GP surgeries simultaneously received a pop-up message demanding a ransom in exchange for access to the PCs. Dozens of operations were cancelled and patients were turned away from A&E after the large-scale attack– the biggest in the history of the NHS.

Some NHS trusts were unable to carry out emergency MRI and CT scans as doctors reverted to using pen and paper amid the chaos. GP practices, pharmacies and universities are also thought to have been affected by the attack.

In an article published in the British Medical Journal, Dr Krishna Chinthapalli, a neurology registrar at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London, warned of such attacks  by ransomware this year.

Many hospitals use proprietary software that runs on ancient operating systems. NHS Trust’s computers attacked by ransomware are probably running Windows XP. Released in 2001, it is now obsolete. Yet 90% of NHS trusts run this version of Windows.

We should be prepared: more hospitals will almost certainly be shut down by ransomware this year. If large numbers of NHS organisations failed to act on a critical notice from Microsoft two months ago, then whose fault is that?

Friday’s attack’s success was “likely to be because some hospital trusts and other organisations have either not applied the patch released by Microsoft, or they are using outdated operating systems.

The Patients Association condemned the criminals behind Friday’s attack, adding that lessons from earlier incidents had not been learned. “It has long been known that the NHS struggles with IT in multiple respects and that this includes serious security problems”.

( Dr Kailash Chand OBE is  Chair of Healthwatch Tameside and former deputy chair of BMA council)

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