Anyone attending Optix’s user group meeting in 2016 won’t have been surprised by the WannaCry ransomware attack suffered by many organisations, including the NHS, this week.

As Aviv Abramovich of security firm Check Point Software Technologies told the audience ‘ransomware is heading your way’.

Computer viruses, or malware, used to serve up distasteful advertisements or crash our machines. But it has inevitably evolved to online fraud and extortion. It’s natural that bigger firms will be targeted but there are threats for practices too.

As Abramovich pointed out 63% of companies have downloaded some form of malware. Anti-virus software is useless against unknown threats. Even a year ago he suggested new malware was being generated at the rate of one new program every 34 seconds. Ransomware has generally been pitched at a low level, perhaps a few bitcoins, so sufferers simply pay up to get back to normal.

As well as extolling the efficiency of his company’s products in mitigating malware Abramovich made some useful suggestions about everyday cyber hygiene.

In practice no unauthorised devices or programs should be used in any computer, Facebook, gambling and adult sites should be blocked from staff use. Abramovich said he wouldn’t use Dropbox for business purposes. Communication opens the channels for malware.

It is almost inevitable the NHS will overreact to the WannaCry attack and this is bad news for optics. For enhanced optical services to function practices need to be connected to the NHS. If the NHS pulls down the shutters many schemes will at best be more expensive to implement and at worst impossible.

Your practice may be unfortunate enough to be held to ransom but I suggest there is a bigger threat. If an optical practice is implicated in spreading malware the whole profession could be tarnished.