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The past, present and future of innovation in cyber security

By Dan Taylor. 13 July 2018

Head and shoulders of NHS Digital head of data security Dan Taylor


If you’d mentioned cyber security to the first tranche of nurses and doctors joining the NHS in 1948, it’s safe to say you’d have received a few blank looks.

Cyber security has really only come to the fore in the last 20 years – rising in tandem with the growth of personal computers. But what a transformation it’s been!

When it comes to choosing my top innovation in cyber security, there are many contenders, but there’s one thing which I think has been more important and more innovative than any systems or programmes, and that’s our people.

The world has been through a huge digital transformation in recent years. Not just in health, but in banking and retail for instance, and it’s the people on the ground who have had to embrace that; as individuals, as businesses and as a society.

Here at NHS Digital, we’ve got a fantastic group of people who are extremely well trained.  Not only do they look after data and secure it appropriately, but they also use it in the right way as well, because it’s not just about security. It’s about how you use it, and how you ensure it’s used for the right purposes.

Our staff really have been superb and as we grow to use even more data for health, I’m absolutely positive that they’ll rise to the challenge in exactly the same way.

I have to confess that I’m a massive geek, so I’m really happy that NHS Digital is about to launch our new Cyber Security Operation Centre (CSOC) in partnership with IBM.

Not only will it build on our existing ability to proactively monitor for security threats, risks, and emerging vulnerabilities, but it will also support the development of new services for the future; enabling us to better support the existing needs of local organisations.

The new CSOC will allow us to provide a more enhanced protection and will really help move us on to being the very best in what we do.  

That means we’ll be able to grow our team and we’ll be able to ensure that we’re using brand new technologies that are really on the cutting edge, and I think as we move forward, it will start to become less about the actual data and more about patient safety.

It’s been a long time since I entered a bank. All my banking is now done online and as we move to and we do more things online with our health, patients need to be appropriately assured that their information is safe and that’s what the CSOC is building.

Everything we do should be about achieving better patient outcomes. Everything starts with a doctor, a nurse or a care worker in front of a patient, and the more information we can provide, the better we can drive patient outcomes.

Our job, as we move to this digital revolution, is to ensure that data is secure and available to the clinician. It may be invisible protection for the patient, but they should have absolute confidence that  initiatives like the CSOC are making sure they get the best possible care. 

We’ve got some fantastic people and technology now, but that real next step is going to be huge for us, and I’m so excited to be a part of that.

Looking ahead to the NHS’s 100th birthday, another 30 years will have passed and I’ll be 67, so I’ll hopefully be looking forward to retirement. But in a strange way, I’m also hoping that there’ll be no such thing as data and cyber security.

Everyone knows that you need to look left and right before crossing the road, but nobody really refers to the Green Cross Code anymore – because it’s all so engrained in us all now. I’d like to think that the same will happen with cyber security.

By 2048, I’d like to think that society will have completely embraced the benefits of using data, and cyber security will simply be a part of what we do. If we can get to that stage, it will bring about huge benefits for patients.


Last edited: 17 August 2018 2:00 pm