Accenture has secured a new contract with NHS Digital to provide free-to-adopt perimeter cybersecurity services across the NHS. According to NHS Digital, the new contract will allow NHS organisations to better secure and manage their digital networks, as well as reduce the risk of cyber-attacks on the institution.
With digitalisation being wielded as a means to cut costs and provide improved quality, both public and private organisations are inadvertently opening themselves up to an onslaught of cyber-attacks. Ransomware in particular presents a growing threat to every industry, with a particular emphasis on healthcare organisations. Having come late to the digital transformation trend, many IT systems in the sector were not installed with cybersecurity in mind. Because many hospitals rely on end-of-life technology and may prioritise immediate data access over data security, cybercriminals have found their systems relatively easy to penetrate.
In 2017, this saw the unprecedented WannaCry hack hit 230,000 computers in over 150 countries, including the network used by the UK’s National Health Service. At the time, the UK Government came under intense scrutiny for its approach to cybersecurity, after it emerged the infamous WannaCry ransomware made use of a known weakness in out-dated Windows software. This followed reports made as early as December 2016, which claimed 90% of NHS trusts still ran on Windows XP, for which Microsoft had stopped providing security updates in April 2014.
Since then, there has been keen scrutiny cast over the NHS’ digital operations, prompting NHS trusts to boost IT spending by almost £152 million since the WannaCry event, having spent around £495 million in the year preceding it. Now, according to a report from Healthcare IT News, NHS Digital has sealed a new cybersecurity arrangement forecast at around £40 million, which will see a range of new services available to trusts for five years from winter 2019/2020. From then, experts from consultancy Accenture will help safeguard the NHS’ systems.
Accenture’s UK Health Lead Niamh McKenna remarked on the news, “Security threats are ever more present in our increasingly connected world so enabling the safe and secure use of information within and outside the NHS is of paramount importance.”
The consultancy is set to provide free-to-adopt perimeter cybersecurity services across the NHS, while deploying technology from security firms Palo Alto and Imperva to build on the current provision from the Data Security Centre. At the same time, hospital trusts and other care settings will be able to access security features, including next-generation firewall, secure filtering for web content, network intrusion detection and prevention capabilities, data loss prevention and secure domain name system services.
Commenting on the contract, NHS Digital Deputy Chief Executive Rob Shaw said, “This is cutting-edge technology that will help keep patient information and NHS systems safe, at no cost to local organisations. For us, the more organisations that join, the better we will be able to see what is happening across the estate. This means that we will be able to monitor for threats more effectively, supporting the NHS to increase data security and helping to provide safer care for patients.”