The coronavirus pandemic will highlight the need for healthcare organisations to prioritise cyber security during "peacetime", says an industry expert


NHS cyber security teams - much like their colleagues on the front lines of patient care - will be under increased strain during the coronavirus pandemic (Credit: Pixabay)

The coronavirus pandemic will provide the “perfect foil” for opportunistic hackers to breach healthcare cyber security systems, says an industry expert.

With health professionals, and their security teams, in the UK more stretched than ever, cyber-attackers will be stress-testing NHS systems constantly in an attempt to reveal potential exploits and weaknesses.

The motive for hackers is often the financial reward they stand to gain from leveraging sensitive patient data.

But Paul Farrington, chief technology officer for EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa) at US cyber security firm Veracode, believes cyber-attackers may also do it simply for their enjoyment.

Farrington said: “It might just be fun — to an attacker — to take down an information site that people are relying on for updates from the government or a health agency.

“It’s horrible to think, but when many of us are thinking about the safety and wellbeing of our families, there are cyber-attackers using this time to inflict further damage, and create concern, for people working in the NHS and private healthcare as well.

“It’s the perfect foil at the moment for attackers who, in good times and in bad times, will ply their trade.”

“I think we can guarantee that people who gain pleasure or financial reward from hacking won’t stop at this point — this is an opportunity for them to do damage.”


Cyber security lessons from coronavirus pandemic

Farrington believes the coronavirus pandemic will highlight the need for healthcare companies and organisations to be proactive regarding cyber security.

He said: “Once we get through this current period, I hope there’ll be many lessons we’ll learn from it as a society.

cyber security coronavirus paul farrington
Paul Farrington, chief technology officer for EMEA at Veracode, has 20 years’ experience in the cyber security field (Credit: Paul Farrington/Twitter)

“One of them will be that, in the good times, we have to invest in systems that are resilient to prevent these types of issues arising — rather than cutting costs or making excuses as to why we shouldn’t invest in cyber security.

“We need systems that increasingly rely on software that’s able to cope with different scenarios playing out.”

Farrington added that more needed to be done during “peacetime” – especially regarding underlying software systems used by the NHS, which are therefore relied upon by millions of patients in the UK.