The ransomware attack in May this year hit more than 200,000 computers in over 150 countries. Hospitals and GP surgeries in England and Scotland were among at least 16 health service organisations hit by the attack, with staff forced to revert to pen and paper and use their own mobiles after it affected key systems, including telephones. Many were forced to turn away patients and cancel appointments after they were infected with the virus, which scrambled data on computers and demanded payments of $300 to $600 to restore access.
Although computers running Windows 7 were most heavily affected, the attack exposed the NHS' continued reliance on Windows XP, despite the fact that it is an unsupported operating system. The Microsoft deal will now ensure NHS Windows XP machines will once again get security updates.
In July 2017, the Government announced it would boost investment in NHS data and cyber security above the £50m that had already been allocated to address key structural weaknesses, such as unsupported systems.
Microsoft will also provide NHS Digital with a “centralised, managed and coordinated framework for the detection of malicious cyber activity through its enterprise threat detection software”, according to a statement by NHS Digital.