Bolton NHS Foundation Trust has invested in new, machine learning-driven threat detection software to mitigate attacks from cyber space.

The trust has selected Vectra’s Cognito platform to secure its IT networks against cyber-attacks and help ease strain on the community provider’s IT security team.

Cognito utilises automated threat detection capabilities that actively seek out threats and identifies them in real time, allowing Bolton’s cyber security team to prevent attacks before they occur.

It achieves this thanks to an “always-learning” threat behavior algorithm that can identify and priorities risks according to the threat they pose, allowing them to be stopped before they can infect key assets on the network.

Bolton NHS Foundation Trust signed up Vectra as part of the organisation’s digital transformation project, which identified cyber security as a “critical part” of its strategy to deliver high-quality care to some 140,000 people in Bolton and the surrounding area.

Brett Walmsley, chief technology officer at Bolton NHS FT, said the organisation was “duty bound to protect our patient information.”

He added: “After WannaCry, security was on top of people’s minds. If someone is in your network, how would you know?”

“Cognito filled a gap. We needed to know what we didn’t know, and Cognito showed us what was hidden. We have a strong security infrastructure, but there’s always ambiguity. With Cognito, we don’t have to worry about not knowing an attacker is in our network.”

Bolton NHS is responsible for the provisioning of community health centres and clinics in the region, in addition to providing district nursing and intermediate care services at the Royal Bolton Hospital.

The trust boasts a growing number of mobile and IoT devices, wi-fi enabled medical equipment and data centre and cloud services, and wanted to ensure critical patient, financial and clinical research data was protected.

It also sees an increasing number patients and visitors using guest wi-fi for personal devices. As a result, the trust identified a need for robust network protections that gave the IT security team greater visibility into hidden risks and potential attack vectors.

Chris Morales, head of security analytics at Vectra, said: “The healthcare industry is a treasure trove of highly sensitive and valuable data and, as has been seen by a number of high-profile attacks on the NHS, a top target for cyber criminals.

“In a pressurised environment where every second counts and could save a life, IT teams need to be able to prioritise threats based on their relevance and severity.

“With Cognito, the time-consuming work of manual threat hunting and investigations is already done for them, making the team more efficient and effective as they secure data centre and cloud workloads and user and medical IoT devices.”