Cumbria

Cumbria health trust hit by 147 cyber attacks in five years

Keyboard and computer code Image copyright RITCHIE B TONGO/EPA
Image caption The number of cyber attacks on Morecambe Bay NHS Trust has been described as "extraordinary"

The NHS in Cumbria has been hit by more than 150 cyber attacks in five years, the BBC can reveal.

Of these, 147 were directed at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust (UHMBT), which runs hospitals in Barrow, Kendal, Morecambe and Lancaster.

The trust said it had spent £29,600 in 2017 dealing with the effects of cyber attacks.

The "vast majority" were "untargeted and unsuccessful", it said.

Lee Coward, the trust's head of information technology, said its "very rigorous reporting" process mean it was possible it had reported "higher volumes of identified cyber 'attacks' than other organisations".

"We spend a lot of time and resources on ensuring our IT systems are safe," he continued.

University of Cumbria senior lecturer in policing and criminology Iain Stainton said the number of attacks on UHMBT was "extraordinary".

The National Cyber Security Centre average was 10 per week across the UK, he said.

'Extraordinary' attacks

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request by BBC News found the rest of the county's councils and NHS trusts were, by comparison, targeted 14 times in total between 2014 and 2018.

Emergency patients had to be transferred from Whitehaven to Carlisle in 2017 because hackers demanding ransom money had locked NHS staff out of computer systems.

Copeland Borough Council spent £2m recovering from an attack later the same year, it said.

Independent elected mayor Mike Starkie said the effect on the council had been "devastating".

"And it wasn't recognised either," he said.

"We had 60 anti-virus systems running and only three of those actually detected that there was anything in the system.

"None of them picked up actually what it was."

University of Cumbria senior lecturer in policing and criminology Iain Stainton said the number of attacks on UHMBT was "extraordinary".

The National Cyber Security Centre average was 10 per week across the UK, he said.

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