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NHS Addresses Cyber-Attack Concerns

There is a more “complex emerging picture” of the cyber-attack that hit Britain’s National Health Service – and other parts of the world – over the weekend.

The attack, caused by ransomware, resulted in a widespread breakdown of the NHS. Now, NHS England is cautioning patients to use the trust “wisely,” amid growing concerns of thousands of computers turning back on after the incident, the BBC reports. The virus, known as WannaCry, infected over 20,000 computers in 150 countries.

Seven of the 48 trusts hit still face serious issues, but patients may still show up for their medical appointments. Some health care workers are also asking patients to reconsider if they really need checkups or appointments.

In July 2016, the Care Quality Commission and National Data Guardian, Dame Fiona Caldicott, wrote to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, warning of an “external cyber threat is becoming a bigger consideration” in the NHS.

The warning stated that a data security review revealed that there was a “lack of understanding of security issues” and breaches often occurred because staff members were working “with ineffective processes and technology.”

Security Minister Ben Wallace has said that NHS trusts have enough funds to protect against cyber-attacks, and that the “real key” was in regularly backing up data and installing security patches.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, explained on a radio talk show that many hospitals that use MRI and CT scanners are “bound to be using old software” because these have a 10-year life period. The cyber-attack, he insisted, was not because of “NHS manager incompetence.”

Other government officials have come out to say that the NHS has been repeatedly warned of such an impending attack.

Anne Rainsberry, NHS incident director, said that the most seriously affected sections were pathology services and imaging services. Microsoft, the software the infected computers were running on, released a security update in March to protect against the virus, and called this incident a “wake-up call.”

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