11/03/2022

Cyber Security Concerns Raised for NHS Highlands Outdated Website

According to a Scottish health board, there may be cause for concern regarding the cyber security of the NHS Highlands website due to outdated software and infrastructure.


Sensitive information was not at risk, NHS Highland said, but services, including virtual appointments, could be disrupted if the site were to go down.

While the process of updating the website’s infrastructure is currently underway, The Times recently published claims that the NHS Highland’s contract for the work was an “advert to cybercriminals.”

The health board’s notice in Public Contracts Scotland described the technical architecture as “obsolete”, and redevelopment of the NHS Highland website a priority issue.

The notice also said that its outdated infrastructure rendered “key search and analytics features inoperable, the website largely un-editable by staff, and its security compromised”.

According to a spokesperson for the health board, the website did not hold or directly link to any sensitive data, including patient details.

“Security concerns are more centred around a potential disruption to service,” the spokesperson said, “for example, in accessing the NearMe virtual appointment service, which could occur if the site were down.

“We have alternative arrangements we can put in place, should this happen … We take security very seriously, and for that reason are keen to move to a more up-to-date web infrastructure which can be easily supported.”

Miles Briggs, a Scottish conservative MSP who expressed concerns regarding cyber attacks at Holyrood in 2021, said that the health board had left its doors wide “open to attack”.

“Cyber security attacks are becoming an ever-increasing problem for public sector organizations, and robust measures must be taken to protect against any potential threats,” Briggs commented.

NHS Highland was one of eleven health boards struck by a ransomware attack in 2017, with the incidents believed to be part of a massive operation that targeted numerous organizations worldwide.

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