From this weekend, TV series Holby City and Casualty are set to be hit by a cyber-attack in a dramatic crossover episode.
According to reports, the cyber-attack plunges Holby into a blackout and disables most of the hospital’s automated monitoring equipment. This could very well happen in real life. With more and more medical equipment being ‘connected’, anything that has access to WiFi could theoretically be hacked.
The same could be said of an office printer so it’s not just the NHS that needs to be concerned about its smart devices being hacked. Businesses of all types could be susceptible to their smart devices being taken over in the event of a hack. Consumers could be targeted at home too, through connected devices such as voice activated home assistants.
Needless to say, the stakes are much higher when it comes to a cyber attack on the NHS. While an individual could have their identity and potentially large sums of money stolen, an attack on the NHS could put thousands of lives at risk. Vital medical equipment could fail, patient data could be lost and operations could be cancelled.
Inaction can be costly
We saw first-hand in 2017 just how crippling a cyber attack can be for the NHS, when the Wannacry Ransomware attack cost the body £92m and caused more than 19,000 appointments to be cancelled.
While it’s not clear yet how the computer virus makes its way into Holby, the most likely scenario in real life would be through human error. It’s all too easy for people to click on a link within an email, thinking it’s legitimate when it’s actually a link to a virus. Hackers can easily set up fake email accounts, seeming to be from people or organisations we know, and pull the wool over our eyes.
Granted, it would make for more of a dramatic plot if a Russian spy abseiled into Holby with a virus on a USB stick. However, in reality cyber attacks through phishing emails are much more common. A huge 91 per cent of cyber-attacks begin with a spear phishing email, which is commonly used to infect organisations with ransomware*.
Statistics like this – and the Holby City storyline – hammer home why the NHS and all organisations for that matter should be taking a two-pronged approach to cyber security.
Tackling cyber crime with knowledge and technology
The first line of defence is always to ensure staff are clued up on these types of scams and the warning signs.
Hold regular training and teach them to look out for tell-tale signs of a scam, like poor grammar or hovering over the email address to check it’s the right one.
Secondly, protect the contents of your emails.
Sending an email without encryption is like walking out of your house without closing the door – a burglar can walk straight in. Sending an email with encryption is better, it’s like closing the door, but sending with our Mailock service is like closing the door and locking it behind you!
The system not only encrypts emails so hackers can’t penetrate them, but it also allows users to verify they’re opened by the right user. It does this by allowing users to challenge the recipient’s identity before permitting access.
Ultimately, by coupling technology with training you are in the best position to protect yourself from being a victim of cyber-crime.
The Holby City and Casualty trailer is available to view here https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=20&v=BTB8frFFnZY. The crossover will air on Casualty’s Saturday, March 2 and Holby City’s Tuesday, March 5 episodes on BBC One.