We need a new Digital Secretary in the cabinet to stop the next fatal data hack

May 17, 2017 · Guest blog from Romilly Dennys, Executive Director of the Coalition for a Digital Economy (Coadec)

 96044810 562219b1 bbf8 4098 b89a 0f2564a5186c

Guest blog from Romilly Dennys, Executive Director of Coadec

In 2015, Tim Kelsey, a former Government NHS tech adviser, told the story of how a doctor said to him: "Patients did not want computers and nor did he."

This traditional mindset may explain why in 2015, hospitals across the country still spent more than one million pounds a year carting around records with staff driving around trucks of paper.

This is not for a lack of available health tech innovations that are proven to improve care, cut costs and save lives. However, despite their availability, the health service still lags behind and its technical deficiencies were displayed for all to see last week when the largest recorded ransomware outbreak crippled several NHS trusts.

While not the only target of WannaCrypt – infecting 230,000 Windows PCs in 150 countries – NHS trusts have been exposed for their negligent approach to protecting patients’ confidential data, allowing hackers an all access pass for years.

The alarm bells have been ringing since 2015, when the Government expired its contract with Microsoft to update Windows XP in a cost-saving exercise. A special year-long framework was put in place for NHS trusts to update their systems, but instead it seems that the allocated funds were spent elsewhere.

Indeed, a recent Freedom of Information request revealed that NHS trusts spend an average of just £23,040 a year protecting systems, despite £4.2 billion being allocated for technology in 2016.

A separate FOI request last December put the number of NHS trusts with some exposure to outdated and insecure Windows XP as high as "nine in ten", in a direct contradiction to the Government response that said "fewer than five per cent of trusts used XP now."

A failure to act provoked repeated and sustained calls for action, including from the Care Quality Commission’s Chief Executive, the National Data Guardian and most recently Dr Chinthapalli, who only last week wrote of the impending threat, with a "third of NHS trusts in the UK already reporting a ransomware attack."

It’s clear that the blame rests with the suspected hackers, but in times of crises, the Government must step up, accept responsibility and take action. For too long, responsibility has been allowed to pass across Whitehall and the NHS, without any political grip on the situation, or digital expertise within the cabinet.

When lives are at risk, it’s particularly galling to see the Government point the blame, instead of acknowledging that more must be done to tackle the challenges of our digital age and the threat of cyber-attacks.

A positive step-forward would be the appointment of a new digital cabinet minister to fast-track the level of political leadership required to both confront digital challenges and embrace the opportunities.

Both have been significantly underrepresented at the top of Government and lie unnoticed by political leaders with the decision-making power. The result is that there have been separate responses from three different cabinet ministers, when we need one stable, assured political voice.

While there are many in the next cabinet who may share the doctors’ sentiments that they would rather do without computers, this is not the world we live in.

To continue to ignore the warning bells at the top of Government is a grave rejection of responsibility and puts the safety of our whole country at risk.

____________________________________________

Romilly Dennys

Romilly Dennys is the Executive Director of the Coalition for a Digital Economy (Coadec). Coadec provides bespoke government relations and policy support to a UK-wide coalition of tech startups and scale-ups. Romilly works closely with the Government, advising on digital and tech policy and representing the UK-wide voice of the sector in Whitehall, the national media and at speaking events. She has recently completed a new report for Government: A Global Britain, from local startups to international markets, that received widespread cross-Party support and national coverage for its new high-skilled visa proposal.

Read Complete Article

RT @TechDayHQ: "A business has to be involving, it has to be fun, and it has to exercise your creative instincts." @richardbranson #Wednesd…

RT @TimeOutLondon: Are you a young filmmaker? @SadiqKhan wants you! https://t.co/tkyitSItS6 https://t.co/HRzBZV6vRU

#Tech as a driver for growth in a post-#Brexit world at #LTW 2017 @joelsonUK https://t.co/8YZqmqPk42

Google Alphabet's Schmidt: Here's why we can't keep fake news out of search results https://t.co/xnHkzKP1AQ https://t.co/8TnMwoKidD

Ben Kelly: Britain is nowhere near ready to walk away from the EU. But we can still avoid Brexit doomsday #premium https://t.co/sqTJAtkfFf

Tech.London Weekly

×