The Socialist 17 May 2017 |
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NHS cyberattack: budget cuts and spy agency to blame
The virus exploited weaknesses in the NHS's outdated operating system (Click to enlarge)
Corbyn's £30bn extra for NHS would improve security
Nationalising big pharma and private providers would also boost funds
Stephanie Hammond, Camden Socialist Party
A 'ransomware' virus brought havoc to NHS trusts starting on 12 May, causing A&E departments to only treat life-threatening emergencies, doctors to turn patients away from surgeries, and cancelling of operations.
The virus, called WannaCry, quickly spread throughout Europe and the world. It was based on malicious code leaked from the United States' National Security Agency, which is responsible for communication tapping.
WannaCry demands that the user of an infected system pay up to $600 in the digital currency 'bitcoin' to regain access to files.
US software company Citrix, which provides some NHS computer services, last year noted that the majority of NHS England trusts were running Microsoft Windows XP. This is an old version of the Windows operating system that Microsoft officially stopped supporting in 2014.
Tory health secretary Jeremy Hunt allowed the ending of a customised contract that would have continued support for Windows XP, and so put NHS systems at risk. Last year, the latest follow-up to the Caldicott Report on NHS information security provided ample warning that it was wide open to attack.
After days of silence, Hunt appeared on Sky News to comment. But he offered nothing except assertions that this could have happened to any organisation - completely ignoring his role in stripping the NHS of funding.
A poll conducted by ORB International for the Independent in the wake of the attacks found three in four people thought the NHS is in bad condition, including the majority of Tory voters.
Corbyn's Labour has pointed the finger at cuts to the infrastructure budget of the NHS to fill gaps elsewhere, and pledged £10 billion in extra spending, including to overhaul IT systems.
This follows years of privatisation and defunding, much of it started by Blair's Labour, and intensified under the Conservatives. It should be little surprise that Hunt made such a disastrous blunder when he has literally written the book on the wholesale privatisation of the NHS.
The Tories and Labour's anti-Corbyn right wing agree on their commitment to renewing the multibillion-pound Trident nuclear 'deterrent'.
Meanwhile workers in Britain face real dangers in their daily lives. For a start, through the stripping of hard-won rights to healthcare - let alone the consequent danger of cyberattack from organised criminals.
By "stockpiling" these cyber-weapons, as Microsoft's chief lawyer put it, the US and its allies have let the genie out of the bottle and placed workers everywhere in very real danger.