The UK’s largest ever hälsa research programme, Our Future Health, which aims to create one of the most detailed pictures there has ever been of people’s health, is to use the Microsoft Cloud to securely store the huge amounts of data needed for the programme.
Our Future Health, a collaboration between the private, charity and public sectors – including the NHS – is building a community of five million volunteers from around the UK, who will give their permission to share health and health-related information about themselves with the aim of developing new ways to prevent, detect and treat diseases.
The programme will look at some of the leading causes of death and serious illness in the UK, including dementia, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and stroke.
Our Future Health has now chosen Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform to enable the information collected from the volunteers to be processed for research purposes, and underpin websites and apps used by medical teams.
All of this will be contained in a Trusted Research Environment (TRE) provided by DNAnexus, which will sit in a UK Azure region. The TRE allows researchers to securely access and analyse data using a variety of bioinformatics and biomedical research tools, including genomic analysis.
DNAnexus and Microsoft will work together, however as with any project of this nature, Microsoft and DNAnexus will not have access to any of the data in the programme itself. The information will be de-identified, encrypted, stored and managed securely in the UK, in compliance with all applicable data protection laws and UK government policies for data protection.
Andrew Roddam, Chief Executive of Our Future Health, said: “We’re delighted that Microsoft will be working with us as a key technology partner and providing our cloud services. This will be an integral part of Our Future Health, underpinning so many important systems that are essential to the running of the programme and ultimately helping to create one of the most detailed pictures we’ve ever had of people’s health.”
Volunteers who join the programme, who will be aged over 18 and truly reflect the diversity of the UK population, will donate a small sample of blood, so researchers can study DNA information and biomarkers, fill in questionnaires about their health and lifestyles, and give permission for Our Future Health to securely link to their health records.
Doing this may hold the key to huge numbers of discoveries, such as:
• New signals that could be used to detect diseases much earlier than is currently possible, leading to new or improved screening and prevention programmes and earlier treatment
• New ways to predict with better accuracy who is at higher risk of diseases and would benefit from faster access to screening and prevention interventions
• More targeted or personalised treatments, tools and technologies to delay the onset of disease, or change the course of disease progression; to reduce disease risks; and more targeted ways to investigate diseases for people at higher risk.
Jacob West, MD of Healthcare and Life Sciences at Microsoft UK, said: “Healthcare teams across the world trust the Microsoft Cloud to deliver better experiences, insights and care, while managing and protecting health and personal data. Microsoft is proud to support Our Future Health’s work, which will provide research teams with a unique view into some of the most common and life-changing diseases that people face.”
The partnership with Our Future Health is the latest example of Microsoft’s work to support healthcare, biomedical research, precision medicine initiatives and clinical collaboration. In 2020, the NHS rolled out Microsoft 365 to all eligible organisations in England, including 1.2 million staff; large NHS trusts in Leeds and Birmingham are unlocking innovation and collaboration by moving to the Azure cloud; while two NHS surgeons in Northumbria are exploring how Microsoft AI can help reduce waiting times, support recommendations from healthcare teams and provide patients with better information so they can make more informed decisions about their own care.
Om e-postsäkerhet i hybridarbetets tid
With remote working the future for so many global workforces – or at least some kind of hybrid arrangement – is there an impact on email security we are all missing? Oliver Paterson, director of product management at VIPRE Security, believes so.
“The timeframe that people expect now for you to reply to things is shortened massively,” says Paterson. “This puts additional stress and pressure on individuals, which can then also lead to further mistakes. [Employees] are not as aware if they get an email with a link coming in – and they’re actually more susceptible to clicking on it.”
The cybercriminal’s greatest friend is human error, and distraction makes for a perfect bedfellow. The remote working calendar means that meetings are now held in virtual rooms, instead of face-to-face. A great opportunity for a quick catch up on a few emails during a spot of downtime, perhaps? It’s also a great opportunity for an attacker to make you fall for a phishing attack.
“It’s really about putting in the forefront there that email is the major first factor when we talk about data breaches, and anything around cyberattacks and ransomware being deployed on people’s machines,” Paterson says around education. “We just need to be very aware that even though we think these things are changing, [you] need to add a lot more security, methods and the tactics that people are using to get into your business is still very similar.
“The attacks may be more sophisticated, but the actual attack vector is the same as it was 10-15 years ago.”
This bears true in the statistics. The Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) found in its Phishing Activity Trends Report (pdf) in February that attacks hit an all-time high in 2021. Attacks had tripled since early 2020 – in other words, since the pandemic began.
VIPRE has many solutions to this age-old problem, and the email security product side of the business comes primarily under Paterson’s remit. One such product is VIPRE SafeSend, which focuses on misaddressed emails and prevents data leakage. “Everyone’s sent an email to the wrong person at some point in their life,” says Paterson. “It just depends how serious that’s been.”
Paterson notes one large FMCG brand, where a very senior C-level executive had the same name as someone else in the business much lower down. Naturally, plenty of emails went to the wrong place. “You try and get people to be uber-careful, but we’ve got technology solutions to help with those elements as well now,” says Paterson. “It’s making sure that businesses are aware of that, then also having it in one place.”
Another part of the product portfolio is with EDR (endpoint detection and response). The goal for VIPRE is to ‘take the complexities out of EDR management for small to medium-sized businesses and IT teams.’ Part of this is understanding what organisations really want.
The basic knowledge is there, as many organisational surveys will show. Take a study from the Enterprise Security Group (ESG) released in October in terms of ransomware preparedness. Respondents cited network security (43%), backup infrastructure security (40%), endpoint (39%), email (36%) and data encryption (36%) as key prevention areas. Many security vendors offer this and much more – but how difficult is it to filter out the noise?
“People understand they need an endpoint solution, and an email security solution. There’s a lot of competitors out there and they’re all shouting about different things,” says Paterson. “So it’s really getting down to the nitty gritty of what they actually need as a business. That’s where we at VIPRE try to make it as easy as possible for clients.
“A lot of companies do EDR at the moment, but what we’ve tried to do is get it down to the raw elements that every business will need, and maybe not all the bells and whistles that probably 99% of organisations aren’t going to need,” Paterson adds.
“We’re very much a company that puts a lot of emphasis on our clients and partners, where we treat everyone as an individual business. We get a lot of comments [from customers] that some of the biggest vendors in there just treat them as a number.”
Paterson is speaking at the Cyber Security & Cloud Expo Global, in London on December 1-2 around the rising threat of ransomware, and how the security industry evolves alongside this threat. Having a multi-layered approach will be a cornerstone of Paterson’s message, and his advice to businesses is sound.
“Take a closer look at those areas, those threat vectors, the way that they are coming into the business, and make sure that you are putting those industry-level systems in place,” he says. “A lot of businesses can get complacent and just continue renewing the same thing over and over again, without realising there are new features and additions. Misdelivery of email is a massive one – I would say the majority of businesses don’t have anything in place for it.
“Ask ‘where are the risk areas for your business?’ and understand those more, and then make sure to put those protection layers in place to help with things like ransomware attacks and other elements.”
Want to learn more about cybersecurity and the cloud from industry leaders? Kolla upp Cyber Security & Cloud Expo taking place in Amsterdam, California, and London.
Explore other upcoming enterprise technology events and webinars powered by TechForge här.
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