Top 6 ways to protect medical devices from hackers

June 13, 2016

Every device with a wireless internet connection can potentially be broken into, and studies show that 1 in 4 people has been hacked. Over the past few years, white hat hackers have breached a variety of medical devices, proving that a skilled hacker could gain access to medical equipment and wreak havoc from a remote location.

 

 

 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations governing medical technology are complex and can make it difficult and time-consuming for manufacturers to update their equipment. This leaves medical devices—such as pacemakers, morphine dispensers and insulin pumps—open to security breaches and malware.

Sarah Brown

Every device with a wireless internet connection can potentially be broken into, and studies show that 1 in 4 people has been hacked. Over the past few years, white hat hackers have breached a variety of medical devices, proving that a skilled hacker could gain access to medical equipment and wreak havoc from a remote location.

While it may seem daunting to defend medical devices against cybersecurity breaches, there are several steps providers can take to keep their patients’ lifesaving equipment safe from intruders. Here are six ways to protect your medical devices from hackers.

 

 

 

6.     Know the product

Investigate medical devices before putting them to use. Make sure that the manufacturer built the device with cybersecurity concerns in mind. The manufacturer is responsible for the security of the device and should work to mitigate cybersecurity risks just as they would technical malfunctions and wear and tear.

While medical device manufacturers often choose not to disclose details about their devices, any interest shown in cybersecurity from healthcare professionals could lead to greater transparency in future devices.

 

 

 

 

 

5.     Share information

The FDA recommends that individuals, businesses, and organizations in both the public and private sectors participate in Information Sharing Analysis Organizations. These organizations are meant to help identify, detect, understand and assess cybersecurity vulnerabilities in medical devices. The goal is to find and fix potential gaps in security before any patients are made vulnerable.

This sharing of information will give the FDA and device manufacturers more data to help them understand security breaches and create safeguards. By sharing experiences, medical device technology can stay a step ahead of hackers.

 

 

 

 

 

4.     Create a plan

Every medical device  on a network is vulnerable to security breaches. It’s impossible to eliminate those risks entirely, but you should take steps to monitor and assess that risk, minimizing it in the process. Though hackers haven’t yet harmed anyone by breaching a medical device’s security, it is entirely possible and surprisingly easy to do so. However, some doctors and manufacturers still think medical device hackers aren’t a real threat.

Hackers aren’t a major problem yet, but there are still ways they could take advantage of your system’s vulnerabilities. Analyze your network and create a cybersecurity plan. Taking these steps will help ensure that your system protects valuable patient data from hackers.

 

 

 

 

 

3.     Adopt better security

Make it more difficult for hackers to steal private patient information by adopting stronger passwords, smart card systems or biometrics scanning. The more secure your network is, the more secure your individual medical devices will be.  Password managers are a great way to keep your systems secure from both internal and external threats by storing your passwords in an encrypted file. 

 

 

 

 

 

2.     Update your technology

Medical equipment and devices are difficult to keep updated—everything needs to be screened by the FDA to ensure that it won’t harm patients. However, due to recent concerns over cybersecurity flaws, the FDA now permits routine software updates or patches that can skip the review process, making updates simpler and faster. Because it’s harder to hack into the newest software, you should keep all of your software and medical devices up to date.

 

 

 

 

1.     Identify hazards

Along with weaknesses in virtual networks, hackers also capitalize on weaknesses in human networks to gain access to sensitive information. They don’t need to break through heavily encrypted computer systems when they can easily manipulate an employee.

This kind of hacking is known as social engineering, and it’s dangerous because it’s effective. Criminals use our natural tendency to trust others to their advantage. To avoid this kind of security breach, make sure you and your colleagues know the tactics that hackers use to manipulate their targets. Learn to identify phishing attacks, verify official communication, and avoid interacting with unsolicited and unknown email sources. By staying alert, you can thwart one of the most effective hacking techniques.

Medical technology is advancing at a rapid pace, and with new innovation comes new threats. By securing your devices, you can keep your systems and patients safe.

 

Sarah Brown is a tech specialist with a love of all topics relating to the IoT. She writes about upcoming technologies and internet safety. Sarah believes that the through entertainment, technology and the written word, we can all stay connected to each other and create a safe environment out in the ether.  

x