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One of the largest integrated healthcare providers in the UK, County Durham and Darlington NHS Trust (CDDFT) delivers acute and community-based services for a population of approximately 650,000. Operating out of two major hospitals, six community hospitals and 80 community sites in northern England, more than 7,000 staff rely upon high-functioning IT resources to provide innovative and effective healthcare services across all the local communities.
As with every NHS organisation, CDDFT operates within wider guidelines set by NHS Digital, the national information and technology partner to the UK’s healthcare system. Part of its forward-looking strategy includes an NHS-wide migration to the Windows 10 operating system.
One of the features of the Windows 10 platform is the embedded security and Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) elements included in the package. While CDDFT was keen to access the improved functionality, resilience and other benefits the operating system provides it was loath to abandon its in-house security solution. Its existing security suite represented a significant financial investment and delivered the optimal functionality and control CDDFT wanted to retain. CDDFT needed to find a way to seamlessly integrate the Windows 10 security elements with its existing security solution.
Critical Success Factors
In many ways, CDDFT’s IT team, led by Craig Robinson, Head of ICT, were ahead of the curve with regards to IT security within the wider NHS. Back in 2017 it made the decision to bolster its response to the evolving cyber-threat landscape and teamed up with Softcat to implement a suite of leading-edge McAfee security solutions.
The extensive suite included:
That foresight paid dividends during the notorious WannaCry ransomware attack of May 2017. While the Windows-targeted malware caused chaos for many NHS providers - through remotely encrypting essential data and then demanding a cryptocurrency payment to restore access - it was business as usual for CDDFT. The McAfee solution did what it was designed to do, and enabled CDDFT to rapidly and effectively prevent any costly disruption to essential services.
Tony McGivern, Infrastructure and Security Manager within the CDDFT IT team, takes up the story. “The IT security measures Softcat helped us implement and ongoing provision of critical threat intelligence enabled us to successfully deal with the WannaCry outbreak. It highlighted the value of the investment we had made to the Trust, and our relationship has gone from strength to strength ever since. Softcat provides access to an aligned solution engineer and its quarterly service reviews help ensure we’re getting the best value and service out of our investment.”
“An essential part of our account management approach is understanding the issues clients may face in the future,” said Corey Leech, Softcat Account Manager. “Our strong relationship with leading vendors and extensive public sector experience gives us early visibility of marketplace evolution. We knew that the migration to Windows 10 could potentially cause issues with CDDFT’s existing security suite and collaborated with McAfee to find a solution.”
Softcat proposed a McAfee MVision solution. It uses machine learning capabilities to integrate Windows 10 security elements and enable unified defence management. It would eliminate the complexity associated with managing multiple detection engines and seamlessly work alongside Windows Defender Firewall and Exploit Guard ATP technologies in line with the wider NHS Digital Windows 10 migration strategy.
“As a team, we do all we can to keep up with evolving cyber-threats and work hard to implement systems capable of responding effectively to them. Softcat’s quarterly reviews help us stay in touch with technological innovation and developments within the wider sector. It knows what’s coming and knows how to meet the challenges we face,” said Tony.
“This solution has ensured we could continue protecting the Trust’s essential systems and data while migrating to Windows 10 in line with wider NHS Digital policy,” said Tony. “It’s illustrated our flexibility as a team and our readiness to respond effectively to change. Softcat stops us falling behind and provides the solutions needed to keep services up and running for the communities we serve.
“The MVision solution has significantly reduced the time it takes to respond to security issues. Put simply, it minimises what we physically have to do to keep the network and its users secure. It frees up time that we can dedicate to maintaining and improving the array of IT services so much of today’s healthcare relies upon. Although the solution has increased our overall cost, the outcome and opportunities it delivers, such as improved mobile working capabilities in the future, has more than justified the investment.
“We’re also convinced that in facilitating a migration to cloud-based services the solution has helped us prepare for an exciting new world of clinical healthcare technology. With the increased security offered by the two systems working effectively in tandem, alongside the added functionality and information sharing capabilities cloud-based services will deliver, we’re in a great position to improve future healthcare provision.”
“Our relationship with CDDFT is an ongoing project,” said Corey. “Ensuring we understand the threat landscape and effectively communicating that intelligence to clients to help mitigate emerging risks underpins our approach to account management. CDDFT willingly embraces technological innovation to strengthen the IT backbone so many services depend on. In the drive to improve services and keep its users and data safe, this proactive approach highlights both its robust security posture and commitment to enhanced healthcare provision.”
Benefits at a glance
“Fundamentally, Softcat is a safe pair of hands capable of cutting through the noise and getting to the nub of the issue, offering real-world solutions to real-world problems,” said Tony. “It delivers the highest levels of customer service and we know it’s there to help out with live security issues and minimise the impact they have on the organisation.
“When we first started working with Softcat we thought they were just ‘box shifters’ like many other resellers. However, around the time of the WannaCry outbreak, Softcat took the lead on lots of intelligence sharing within the industry, and their response shifted our perception of them to that of ‘thought leaders’.
“We’re lucky to have a wealth of knowledge and skills within our in-house team but know that should we identify any knowledge gaps, Softcat is always on hand for critical, up-to-date advice. Corey and the wider Softcat team are genuinely interested in delivering solutions that work, rather than concentrating on boosting the bottom line.