Four NHS trusts have signed up with cyber security firm Darktrace with a view to automatically identifying possible cyber threats.

Milton Keynes University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, Luton and Dunstable Hospital University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, and West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust are the latest organisations to ink deals with Darktrace, which provides machine learning-driven security software.

The firm’s technology, branded the Enterprise Immunise System, uses a system of algorithms to detect and automatically fight back against threats that enter a computer network.

Within the NHS, the tool is being used to build on the ability of organisations to respond to cyber-attacks and protect patient data, a topic that has made its way to the top of board agendas since the WannaCry outbreak in 2017.

Craig York, associate director of IT at Milton Keynes University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said autonomous response technology was “the future for defending against fast-moving and unpredictable threats, before they do damage”, adding that its contract with Darktrace would put the NHS “in a much better place to fend off another serious cyber-attack”.

Darktrace’s Antigena software was credited for helping interrupt WannaCry as the ransomware spread throughout NHS trusts in May last year.

The NHS has since funnelled more investment into shoring up its cyber security capabilities, recently awarding a multi-million-pound contract to IBM to enhance NHS Digital’s security operations centre.

NHS Digital is currently on the lookout for a chief information and cyber security officer to lead its cyber security strategy, as per the recommendations set out in Will Smart’s ‘lessons learnt’ review into WannaCry.

To date, Darktrace’s technology has been installed across nine NHS organisations.

Dave Palmer, the Cambridge-based firm’s director of technology, said: “Today, cyber defenders have to react with the speed and accuracy of machines to keep our healthcare services and patients safe.

“As our hospitals and clinics become increasingly digitised and hyper-connected, it is reassuring to see more and more NHS organisations deploying Darktrace’s AI to catch sophisticated attacks, before they have the chance to cause a crisis.”