Future-Proofing NHS Data with Microsoft Cloud Security

Organisations within the NHS are facing growing public uncertainty around the safety of their data. Results from a recent survey on public attitudes to data in the NHS show that four out of five patients worry that NHS IT systems may be vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Just recently, a ‘large volume’ of data was stolen from NHS Dumfries and Galloway and published on the dark web. Acts like these are increasing across NHS and social care organisations in the UK and show no signs of slowing down.  

With increased remote working and Bring Your Own Device policies implemented in the NHS since the onset of COVID-19, security protection has faltered – and organisations must find a turning point.

It’s critical that the NHS and social care organisations win back the trust of the public and guarantee that patient data is in safe hands. With the publication of its Cyber Security Strategy to 2030, the government has identified the need for increased training and continued self-assessment through the Data Security and Protection Toolkit, but that doesn’t just happen. It’s time for health and social care organisations to take a proactive approach to cybersecurity resilience before threats become a reality.  

Why are NHS organisations increasingly targeted?  

The NHS is a behemoth. It is the UK’s largest employer, with more than 1.3 million full-time staff. This alone makes it a high-value target for cybercriminals, but the personal and confidential nature of the data it holds also plays a key role.

An organisation this large can be extremely difficult to keep secure, but why is that?  

Resource Constraints

  • It’s a common belief that the NHS is underfunded, and these financial implications can impact the NHS’s ability to invest in robust cybersecurity infrastructure.
  • With the NHS facing one of the worst staffing crises in its history, the number of trained personnel is getting scarcer across all departments, and the ability to retain cybersecurity experts is difficult due to competition from other sectors.

Inefficient Infrastructure

  • The NHS is made up of thousands of hospitals, GP surgeries, clinics and administrative units, each with its own IT systems
  • These inconsistencies in infrastructure, legacy systems, and lack of standardisation can make it harder for organisations to implement cohesive security measures
  • The ability to upgrade and secure such a diverse landscape can pose a significant challenge to IT and Security leaders

Easy target for cybercriminals

  • The NHS holds vast amounts of sensitive patient data that can be sold, making it an attractive target for cyberattacks
  • Ransomware attacks, data theft, and indiscriminate malware campaigns are specifically created to target healthcare institutions and their infrastructure 
  • The consequences of successful attacks can disrupt patient care, compromise privacy and damage the reputation of the NHS

To help address these challenges, the NHS and the Department of Health and Social Care have developed a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy, which aims to enhance resilience, improve information sharing and protect valuable patient data. What can you do to get on board and rethink your cybersecurity strategy? 

Introducing the Microsoft Security Toolkit 

If you’re looking to start improving your security posture and stay safe from threats, now is the time. Microsoft has invested over $20 billion in its security offerings to help organisations stay safe.

Developing a comprehensive set of security tools that are already being integrated into some NHS organisations through a landmark deal with Microsoft in 2023. These include…

  • Microsoft Defender
  • Microsoft Sentinel
  • Microsoft Purview
  • Copilot for Security

You have probably used, or at least heard of, some of these products, but ones like Copilot for Security and Purview may be new to you – let’s take a deeper dive into each one and understand how these Microsoft Cloud Security tools can benefit your NHS organisation. 

Microsoft Defender 

The Microsoft Defender suite is a collection of products that will really bolster your security standing. Different versions of Defender, such as for Cloud, Cloud Applications and Microsoft 365 are designed to keep all areas of your organisation protected. The most popular among NHS organisations is Microsoft Defender for Endpoint. 

Defender for Endpoint is a detection and response, enterprise endpoint security platform that is designed to prevent, detect, investigate, and respond to real-time advanced threats. It improves overall cyber security capabilities, and NHS organisations stand to benefit from enhanced Cyber Security Operations Centre (CSOC) services, which further improves cyber security protection for the NHS.  

The platform gathers network telemetry from devices like laptops, PCs, servers and phones, and send it to Microsoft Cloud services to detect potential cybersecurity threats, before acting to prevent the spread of these threats across the network. Defender alerts local system managers and the CSOC to potential security incidents, offering a real-time, organisation-wide view down to individual devices. This allows the CSOC to quickly coordinate responses, minimising disruption to clinical services.  

Microsoft Sentinel 

Microsoft Sentinel is a Security Information and Event Management platform that gives NHS organisations the visibility to see and stop threats across the entire organisation. Built on the cloud, it offers intelligent security analytics that can help health and social care organisations stay ahead of sophisticated threats.  

Sentinel offers key benefits for NHS organisations by centralising network monitoring and providing real-time visibility and threat detection. This 24/7 transparency helps protect sensitive patient data and ensures operational continuity with scalable, cloud-based architecture, reducing costs and integrating data from various sources for a comprehensive security view. Sentinel minimises false positives, proactively identifies threats, and automates routine tasks, freeing up IT staff for more complex challenges. Its deep investigation tools help NHS organisations understand and address the root causes of security incidents, enhancing their overall cybersecurity posture.  

Microsoft Purview 

Microsoft Purview is a comprehensive data governance and compliance solution that helps organisations manage and protect their data across various environments, including on-premises, multi-cloud, and SaaS applications. It offers capabilities such as data discovery, classification, and lineage tracking to ensure data is managed and utilised effectively while maintaining compliance with regulatory requirements.  

For a health organisation using Purview, you can benefit from detailed visibility into data usage and access, lowering the risk of data breaches and ensuring that only authorised personnel can access critical data. By tracking data flow and improving data quality with lineage and lifecycle management, Purview streamlines data management and helps mitigate risks by identifying and addressing data issues early, preventing potential problems. Automating governance tasks with Purview also allows IT staff to focus on strategic initiatives, improving overall operational efficiency. 

Copilot for Security 

Copilot for Security, launched on 1st April 2024, is a feature integrated into Microsoft’s security solutions, leveraging advanced AI and machine learning to assist security teams in identifying, responding to, and mitigating threats. Built on the foundation of Microsoft’s comprehensive security platforms, Copilot for Security aims to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of security operations.  

For NHS organisations, it can enhance the ability to protect sensitive data, ensure compliance with regulatory standards, and improve overall security posture. By automating routine security tasks and providing advanced threat detection capabilities, it allows IT and security teams to focus on more critical and strategic aspects of their operations. The AI model can also continually learn from new threats and security incidents, improving its capabilities and making sure your NHS organisation is more secure. 

Want to learn more about Copilot for Security? Here’s a quick introduction 

What’s next?  

As we know, data security is always a top priority for NHS organisations, and we don’t want your organisation to fall victim to a cyberattack. Every year, health and social care organisations that have access to NHS Patient Data and Systems should complete a Data Security and Protection Toolkit self-assessment, to benchmark itself against the National Data Guardian’s 10 data security standards.  

To make sure you exceed these standards, be proactive and make sure you are continually reviewing your cyber security strategy. Make sure you have the latest and innovative cloud cybersecurity tools integrated within your IT systems that align with your security strategy and goals.  

Now that you know about the cloud security tools available to help your NHS organisation stay secure, you can start to explore options, like partnering with a Cloud Managed Service Provider. By working with a CMSP, you unlock unrivalled, around-the-clock, in-depth expertise and guidance.  

An Azure Expert MSP, like Cloud Direct, can also gain you access to Microsoft funding pots that other partners can’t, which could unlock exciting opportunities for your NHS organisation to de-risk and accelerate your security performance.  

Cloud Direct offers funded assessments and workshops that link to the Microsoft Security Toolkit, so if you’re interested in exploring these options then get in touch with a member of our team and find out how you can add a little sparkle to your security journey.