As doctors’ visits have stalled during the pandemic, connected medical devices filled the gap. Such tools include everyday devices like smartwatches and fitness trackers to complex medication trackers and biometric scanners, to name a few. The use of such devices has become so widespread that their global market value expects to rise to $60 billion by 2027 – a whopping $38 billion above its 2020 value, which increases the risks of connected devices…
Increasingly, more people rely on these devices for their daily health management. But as a part of the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT), such devices are highly prone to cyberattacks. This past year, specifically, has demonstrated how vulnerable the healthcare sector is. So, it’s necessary to be aware of the potential threats and know how to combat them.
Stolen Patient Data
Many connected medical devices are operating without set security standards across the board; there may be different levels of security from one device to the next, opening up vulnerabilities.
Unauthorized entries into medical databases can be detrimental to patients as well as healthcare organizations. Such databases contain troves of sensitive information such as insurance records and financial data. A data breach is a serious violation of patient privacy that can lead to penalties, lawsuits, and other costly consequences for healthcare providers.
Hacker-Controlled Medical Devices
In addition to stolen records and data, cyberattacks also put patients’ welfare at risk. Attackers can hack and manipulate personal medical devices. In doing so, malicious actors have the power to adjust – and even turn on and off – these devices, potentially harming patients. For those who rely on these medical devices for everyday support, this is especially alarming.
Disruption in Patient Care
Ransomware is one of the most common attacks targeting connected medical devices. Hackers use this form of cyberattack to compromise vital files and even entire systems until medical service providers pay a ransom. During the pandemic, there were instances where hackers refused to give hospitals access to crucial, life-saving files and operations until they got paid – all whilst hospitals were already overwhelmed by COVID.
Damage to Reputation and Credibility
These cyberattacks also affect business reputation. Following a data breach, patients and other stakeholders may begin to doubt the security of their data. The medical field is built mainly on trust and credibility; it can be difficult to regain those once lost. Damage to reputation and credibility can cost a healthcare entity clients and money.
How to Counter These Risks
While there is a slew of security vulnerabilities associated with connected medical devices, their benefits can’t be understated. This calls for a need for institutions to take countermeasures against the various threats through the following:
Orchestrated Firmware Updates
An advantage of connected devices is their ability to be regularly updated. During these firmware updates, ensure careful orchestration and that only authorized parties can make changes to the device.
Should an update failure ensue, there must be a contingency plan in place; either reboot the device and restart the update or replace the device altogether. Additionally, patients need clear instructions on how to configure their devices on their home network. The proper installation lets you establish an encrypted connection between the medical devices and the IoMT.
Secure Custom Software
Each medical institution utilizes its own software. These should all have security ingrained into each component, which is why many developers looking to work in healthcare today opt to take specialty courses on developing secure software. This, in turn, has led to a huge demand within the healthcare industry, one which is being met by higher education through the increasing number of graduates with software experience. Those undergoing a master’s program in software development learn how to design secure software with complex and specialized applications, such as healthcare security applications. On top of creating clean, user-friendly interfaces, digitally trained developers can craft codes that include incident response plans should an attack occur.
Moreover, users of the system and network should undergo online cybersecurity training to gain the skills necessary to spot network vulnerabilities.
Hardware Security Risks
When there are several devices within a network, some vulnerabilities may fall through the cracks. This is particularly true when there are manual reporting and employee intervention in the mix. This makes it that much easier for hackers to infiltrate the system. It opens up opportunities for installing unauthorized devices onto the network. One way to circumvent this problem is by integrating physical layer fingerprinting on each device on your network. As the only company in the world that offers this service, Sepio ensures that no device is left undetected. Each device is assigned a digital fingerprint, creating a more robust cybersecurity posture. Sepio effectively and automatically determines if a medical device becomes vulnerable or if unauthorized devices and connections are linked to the network.