UK healthcare is ‘prime target’ for Russian hackers, says report

healthcare is a 'prime target' for hackers, says report

A new report warns that British healthcare infrastructure is susceptible to cyberattacks by Russian hackers, which could lead to a ‘healthcare crisis’.

The report was published by the Henry Jackson Society on 20 February. It analyses the cyberattacks used as part of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, suggesting how the UK could better defend itself against similar tactics. One area that the report considered to be especially vulnerable was healthcare.

In particular, the report urged the government to invest in updating technology to improve security measures. It says: ‘Many of these systems still rely on outdated technology and legacy systems that may not be equipped to handle modern cyber threats, especially within healthcare and local government.’

Author David Kirichenko warns that attacks to healthcare infrastructure could lead to delayed or incorrect dispensing of medicines.

Essential and life-saving equipment in hospitals could also be targeted. For example, a Russia-aligned group of hackers known as Killnet threatened to attack ventilators in British hospitals in 2022.

The report says that cyberattacks could lead to a ‘healthcare crisis’, which would overwhelm healthcare infrastructure and put lives at risk.

‘Digital battlefields’

Kirichenko explains that British critical infrastructure has been a target for hackers before. He says: ‘The UK’s most hazardous nuclear site has already been hacked into by groups linked to China and Russia.’

He also stresses that as long as other countries like the UK support Ukraine, Russia will continue to wage cyber war on the west.

Natalia Tkachuk is head of Ukraine’s Information Security and Cybersecurity Service. She said: ‘The main thing to expect is the increasing use of criminal hacker groups by Russian intelligence services to carry out intelligence and subversive activities against western countries and targeted cyber operations.’

The report concludes: ‘The UK and other western powers need to be better prepared for this new era in which warfare takes place on digital as well as physical battlefields.’

‘Bolstering the defences of our health and care services’

In March 2023, the government pledged to provide a plan to protect the healthcare sector from cyberattacks by 2030.

Health minister Lord Markham said: ‘We’re harnessing the power of technology to deliver better, safer care to people across the country. But at the same time it’s crucial we’re also bolstering the defences of our health and care services.

‘This new strategy will be instrumental to ensure every organisation in health and adult social care is set up to meet the challenges of the future. This is an important step to ensure we’re building an NHS which is sustainable and fit for the future, with patients at the centre.’

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