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Shadow minister warns of continued NHS cyber weakness


Mark Say Managing Editor

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Labour’s shadow Cabinet Office minister has raised an alarm over the number of NHS computers still running on Windows XP.

Jo Platt MP (pictured) said it reflects failings in the Government’s approach towards cyber security and indicates a need for more resources to update computer systems.

Her warning came in response to an answer to a parliamentary question, provided by junior health minister Jackie Doyle-Price, saying there are still approximately 2,300 computers using Windows XP in the NHS.

The minister pointed out this comprised just 0.16% of the NHS IT estate and said the Government is supporting organisations in upgrading their systems.

Platt responded that this was not good enough two years after the spread of the WannaCry virus seriously disrupted many NHS organisations. In October 2017 the National Audit Office published a report that attributed cyber weaknesses partly to a continued reliance on Windows XP in many organisations.

Microsoft withdrew support for the operating system in 2014 and struck a deal to extend it for UK Government systems for one more year.

'Lack of leadership'

“The Government is seriously lacking the leadership, strategy and co-ordination we need across the public sector to keep us and our data safe and secure,” Platt said. “How many more warnings will it take before they listen and take action?

“The next Labour Government will provide not only the resourcing but also the vital leadership, organisation and dedication needed to get our public sector fit and resilient to fight the cyber threats of the 21st century.”

She added that the NAO report found part of the problem was a lack of capital expenditure on IT in some NHS organisations, leaving them vulnerable to cyber attack.

Platt has been making an issue of the Government's record on cyber security in recent months, and earlier this year advocated that it create a central body to co-ordinate efforts in the field.

Image by Chris McAndrew, CC BY 3.0

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