The Stack Archive

Google blocks NHS for ‘botnet’ resemblance

Wed 1 Feb 2017

Google is blocking access to NHS staff after search engine traffic from the UK healthcare provider’s network was mistaken as a major cyber threat.

With over a million employees, the NHS is undoubtedly a heavy load on the U.S. tech giant’s servers, but this week the sheer amount of requests was detected as a cyberattack and Google was forced to restrict the network’s access to its search engine.

“Google is intermittently blocking access due to the amount of traffic from NHS Trusts Nationally (This is not being blocked by the IT Department). This is causing Google to think it is suffering from a cyber-attack,” wrote an NHS IT team in an email to employees.

The IT department continued to advise employees to use alternate search engines, such as Bing, to avoid the current complications with Google. It also suggested that users could use Google’s Chrome browser and fill in the ‘captcha’ test to prove they are not part of a botnet.

In an official statement, an NHS Digital spokesperson confirmed the situation: “We are aware of the current issue concerning NHS IP addresses which occasionally results in users being directed to a simple verification form when accessing Google… This would appear to be due to the high number of people using our systems and trying to access Google at peak times. We are currently in discussion with Google as to how we can help them to resolve the issue.”

Google has yet to provide a statement on the issue.

Over the last year, Google has made significant inroads with the NHS to implement DeepMind artificial intelligence projects. In February 2016, DeepMind Health established its first-ever partnership with the NHS, announcing an app called Streams which uses AI capabilities to support the detection of acute kidney injuries (AKI).

Last November, the two organisations also signed a five-year agreement to develop a new app to notify doctors of updates to patient conditions in real-time, with the aim of reducing preventable deaths and admissions to intensive care.

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