Obviously, everybody will be aware the British NHS has been crippled by a ransomware attack. The NHS being practically the British equivalent of the American Constitution (mess with it at your electoral peril) it’ll be interesting to see what impact this is going to have on the election.
As usual, we have had a pretty pathetic and pig-ignorant response from our Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, who appeared to be congratulating herself on the fact that the hackers did not get access to any patient records. Unfortunately, of course, after about lunchtime on Friday, neither did NHS doctors, nurses or support staff. . .Her and Mrs May’s inevitable deflection—”It wasn’t our fault, it’s happened to lots of people”— might not go down too well either. OK, so Nissan, Telefonica, whoever, got clobbered too. But it happened to the NHS.
What we do know, is that while much of the NHS is relying on old Windows
OS and software*, it was this government that cancelled a deal with Microsoft to keep up support at a cost of a mere £5 million or so a year. . .and the Tories have wasted billions over the years paying certain software companies to develop systems for the NHS that didn’t work, and turned out to be a form of ‘ransomware’ themselves. (We’ll get it fixed for another $20 million this year . . .and . . .again next year . . .)
Whatever, it means that for at least a week, the NHS could well be top of the political agenda again. And, in politics speak, the Tories have ‘ownership’ of the disaster. And, unexpectedly, it’s not the Russians interfering with the election. . .though I bet Rudd and May are wishing it was.
* Funnily enough I’ve had the odd casual conversation about this in the hospital I go to, off and on over the last year or so, after I raised my eyebrows a bit at seeing what was on the screen. . .Most staff, I think, just despair. But of course, there are reasons. Much of the software might well start off-the-shelf, but it gets adapted and re-formulated.
I’ve been very annoyed with the usual fatuous ‘technical reporters’ who’ve kept saying for hours ‘If only they’d all installed Microsoft’s last patch . . . or if they’d all upgraded their OS . . . it would never have happened. It’s all free, after all.”
We all know that’s not so easy, and it isn’t usually ‘free’. (£5 million a year to Microsoft for a start.) ‘Upgrade’ your OS, and ten to one you are going to have to buy in (again!) the latest version of a lot of the software you’ve been using; pay for umpteen licences, and ten-to-one it’s not going to behave quite the same way, or possibly not at all.
(My own hospital—I was there on Friday when this kicked off—didn’t get caught, but like most others, has effectively taken its systems off-line for the weekend. Interestingly, some departments there must use Macs as well: when I got a copy of my last [ever!] MRI scan, I was asked if I wanted it to run on Windows or Mac . . .It runs on a little stand-alone Mac program I’ve never seen before.)