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September 23, 2019

NHS Trust Says Systems Restored After “Critical” IT Failure: Was it Ransomware?

"Our IT staff have been working overnight"

By CBR Staff Writer

An NHS trust that oversees six hospitals says it has restored systems after a critical IT systems failure that forced it to cancel operations over the weekend.

Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust employs approximately 6,000 staff and serves a resident population of approximately 286,000 people.

In a short Facebook post today it said it had been forced to declare a critical incident following the IT systems failure, telling patients: “Our IT staff have been working overnight to try to resolve the issues and restore IT resilience, but we have had to cancel all routine surgery and outpatients appointments today.”

By around 16:30 today the trust said systems had been restored.

It did not identify the precise nature of the incident.

See also: UK Ransomware Attacks Soar 195% – Malware Cocktails Proliferate

The NHS Trust said in an update this afternoon: “While all systems are now back up and running, we are in a period of recovery. We will provide a further update later this afternoon about any potential impact on appointments over the coming days.”

Systems affected across Torbay and South Devon included community sites at Newton Abbot Community Hospital, Totnes Community Hospital, Brixham Community Hospital and Dawlish Community Hospital as well as GPs’ IT systems.

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Security experts speculated that the issue may have been a ransomware attack, which remain rampant, with malware typically delivered via phishing emails, which can be obvious or sophisticated, depending on the type of attack.

See also: Accenture Lands Major NHS Cybersecurity Contract

If this was indeed the case, it was rapidly thwarted.

The NHS remains rife with legacy and unpatched systems. NHS Digital continues to try and get greater visibility over the NHS’s infrastructure in the wake of the Wannacry ransomware attack in May 2017, which hit 80 hospital trusts and 595 GP practices.

Last month NHS Digital, which oversees the NHS’s cyber security work, said it had signed Accenture up as a partner in a £40 million deal to help provide firewall, secure DNS and network intrusion solutions to hospitals and regional trusts.

These centrally paid-for services (Trusts don’t need to pay extra) tools include solutions from cybersecurity firms Palo Alto Networks and Imperva, which is recognised as the leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Web Application Firewalls.

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