Cyber-attacks and hackers are becoming more and more sophisticated, and a recent ransomware attack on an NHS IT provider has left many wondering how robust data systems truly are against such dangers. So what happened, and how can you protect yourself from a similar occurrence?
Holding Patient Data To Ransom
The IT company, Advanced, provides vital digital services for the NHS such as 111 and patient check-in data. The attack was first seen in the morning of 4th August, and Advanced took the appropriate steps to contain the situation as much as possible. However, its services were damaged by the attack, and it is thought that it could take up to a month for a full recovery to be possible.
How Patients Have Been Impacted
While Advanced tries to restore services to normal, patients have been impacted by the attack. The NHS has its own defences in place, and yet patient histories have been rendered inaccessible, making it difficult if not impossible for some doctors to make accurate and fully informed diagnoses of new patients. Some clinicians have lost up to seven days of notes, with no firm answer as to when or if the systems will be fully restored - as no word has been released on whether a ransom is being paid or not.
The Importance Of IT Asset Disposal
In situations such as these, the focus can fall on outdated systems and software being prime targets for attacks. Ensuring that secure IT asset disposal is carried out is key to easing the chances of an attack being successful - so when systems and machines are updated, the storage devices do not fall into the wrong hands.
Malware And Ransomware
Aside from the danger implicit in storage devices, malware and ransomware also present major threats. Malware is a computer virus which can access your systems and data, causing files to become impossible to access and even making the machines themselves useless. Ransomware is a subset of malware, in which files are encrypted and made inaccessible before the victim of the attack is instructed to pay for their data access - this is the ransom aspect.
How To Protect Yourself
Ensuring that you have adequate virus protection, including virus scanning on your emails, is an essential way to block a majority of these attacks. Malware is especially common on outdated systems and software, which tend to have less robust security and will not receive the latest updates. By keeping your software updated, you can avoid becoming easy prey. You must also keep your data backed up, just in case an attack does occur.