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Nearly 600 Practices Affected In NHS Hack Attack, Finds Public Auditor

The National Audit Office (NAO) has found that nearly 600 GP practices were affected by the WannaCry cyber attack that caused havoc in the National Health Service in May this year.

NAO report said that NHS trusts were left vulnerable to the WannaCry ransomware attack because cyber-security recommendations were not followed. The report discloses that every NHS trust whose cyber security arrangements were checked before the breach had failed the inspection.

NAO has criticised both Department of Health (DH) and NHS England for not doing enough to prevent cyber-attacks, arguing that there was no formal mechanism to assess whether trusts were conforming with guidelines to move away from outdated software like Windows XP before the WannaCry attack.

According to the NAO, more than a third of trusts in England (34%) were disrupted by the WannaCry ransomware attack in May. Nearly 19,500 medical appointments, including 139 potential cancer referrals, were estimated to have been cancelled, with five hospitals having to divert ambulances away.

NHS England said no patient data had been stolen or compromised and praised the staff response. But the comptroller and auditor-general of the NAO, Sir Amyas Morse said in the report that WannaCry was "a relatively unsophisticated attack and could have been prevented by the NHS following basic IT security best practice."

The chief clinical information officer for health and care at NHS England, Keith McNeil argued that luckily, no harm was caused to patients and there were no incidents of patient data being compromised or stolen.

He further added that tried and tested emergency plans were activated quickly and hard-working NHS staff went the extra mile to provide patient care, keeping the impact on NHS services and patients to a minimum.

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