UK’s largest NHS trust launches probe after recent cyberattack forced systems to be taken offline
The recent cyberattack on Barts Health NHS Trust follows a similar attack in November 2016 iStock

Barts Health Trust, the UK's largest NHS trust, was reportedly hit by hackers recently. The trust, which runs The Royal London, St Bartholomew's, Whipps Cross, Mile End and Newham hospitals, has launched an investigation into the cyberattack that forced systems to be briefly taken offline.

The trust has ruled out a ransomware attack and added that patient data was not accessed by the hackers. However, the nature of the attacks and how many systems were affected still remain unclear.

"We are urgently investigating this matter and have taken a number of drives offline as a precautionary measure," The trust said, BBC reported. "We have tried and tested contingency plans in place and are making every effort to ensure that patient care will not be affected."

Security consultant Jamie Moles of malware detection firm Lastline told IBTimes UK, "There are a number of trusts in deficit and spending on the NHS has dropped in real terms since the recession. Priorities for all NHS trusts are unsurprisingly targeted at medical needs over and above admin and operational needs, but of course this includes IT Security.

"While security remains a low priority for NHS management, they will increasingly fall victim to these kinds of threats, which wouldn't be a serious problem except it has previously resulted in cancellation of treatments whilst the affected systems are investigated and cleaned up."

The recent cyberattack follows a similar attack in November 2016, which saw 3 hospitals run by the Lincolnshire and Google trust forced to cancel patient appointments and shut down systems while security experts worked to mitigate the impact of the attack.

A previous report highlighted that several NHS trusts spent little to nothing on cybersecurity, leaving sensitive patient data vulnerable and exposed to cybercriminals.

Moles said, "Moving forward if we are to prevent these issues causing delays to treatment and potentially deaths, NHS trusts are going to have to invest in technology to deal with Ransomware and other targeted malware based threats. There are plenty of good technologies available to assist in this issue and they can be scaled effectively and cost efficiently to cope with massive organisations like the NHS. Unfortunately, Antivirus is not one of them."