More than a Million NHS Patients’ Data Compromised after Cyber Breach

Key Takeaways:

  • A recent ransomware attack on the University of Manchester has resulted in a cyber breach that compromised the data of over a million NHS patients.
  • The affected data set, used for research purposes, contains information on 1.1 million patients across 200 hospitals and includes NHS numbers and the first three letters of patients’ postcodes.
  • The university has warned health officials about the breach, but the exact number of affected patients and whether names were also hacked remains unknown.
  • Cybersecurity expert Suid Adeyanju emphasizes the need for the latest cyber protection technology and comprehensive staff training to combat ransomware attacks and protect confidential patient data.
  • NHS chiefs have been alerted to the potential of the compromised data being made public, leading to the closure of the data set.
  • The incident raises concerns about cybersecurity in the NHS, particularly following previous attacks and the perceived weakening of cybersecurity measures during the pandemic.
  • Investigations are ongoing, involving relevant authorities such as the Information Commissioner’s Office, the National Cyber Security Centre, and the National Crime Agency.

The Scope of the Cyber Breach

A recent ransomware attack targeting the University of Manchester has resulted in a cyber breach that compromised the data of over a million NHS patients, as reported by The Independent. The affected data set, which was held by the university for research purposes, includes information on 1.1 million patients across 200 hospitals. The compromised data may include NHS numbers and the first three letters of patients’ postcodes. Notably, it contains records of major trauma patients nationwide and individuals treated after terror attacks.

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Expert Warning and Urgent Measures

Suid Adeyanju, a cybersecurity expert, warns that cyber criminals will continue to target critical national infrastructure, such as the NHS, with ransomware attacks to steal confidential patient data. Adeyanju stresses the importance of implementing the latest cyber protection technology and providing comprehensive training to all staff to mitigate the risks of phishing emails and online scams. With the rising tide of cyber attacks, securing data and minimizing risk should be a top priority for the NHS.

Potential Data Exposure and Investigation

A University of Manchester document, viewed by The Independent, reveals that the university’s backup servers were accessed during the attack. The exact identity of the attackers remains unknown. Consequently, NHS chiefs were alerted to the potential for NHS data to become publicly available, leading to the closure of the compromised data set. The breach may have exposed patients’ data without their knowledge, as consent was not required for their inclusion in the database.

Previous Incidents and Concerns

This incident follows a separate hack in August 2022 that caused the outage of software used to access patient data across NHS 111, mental health trusts, community hospitals, and out-of-hours GP services. The outage lasted weeks and resulted in significant safety risks, including improper medication prescriptions and inadequate assessment of mentally unwell patients. Experts previously raised concerns that the NHS’s cybersecurity could be vulnerable, particularly due to potential weaknesses exposed during the pandemic.

Ongoing Investigations and Response

The University of Manchester is currently investigating the impact of the cyber incident and working closely with relevant authorities, including the Information Commissioner’s Office, the National Cyber Security Centre, the National Crime Agency, and other regulatory bodies. Internal and external data experts are working tirelessly to resolve the incident and mitigate its consequences. The university declined to comment specifically on the NHS data breach but acknowledged the cyber incident and its ongoing investigations.

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The Information Commissioner’s Office confirmed that they have received a report on the ransomware attack at the University of Manchester and are assessing the information.


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