Medical Device Hacks: New Era of Cyber-threat

On the 12th of May, 2017, the ransomware virus, WannaCry created a chaos in the cyber world and paralyzed several important systems across the globe. One of the sectors that was highly affected by the WannaCry cyber-attack was the healthcare IT sector. In Britain, the cyber-attack severely impacted the IT systems of many hospitals where doctors were helpless as they could not access the records of patients. Further, emergency care was delayed and ambulances were also diverted, thus, risking many the life of many patients.

Medical Device Hacks to Threaten Life of Patients

The icing on the cake of cyber-attacks is hacking healthcare IT systems, but the cherry on top of it is the hacking medical devices which will further lead to life threatening situations. Researchers in the U.K. and Belgium have demonstrated the possibility of medical devices such as insulin pumps, defibrillators, and pacemakers to be infected by life-threatening signals. A recent case related to this type of infiltration is the temporary close down of a catheter laboratory in Virginia where malware was reported in the computers which supported cardiac surgery. In another similar case, malware having the capacity to open “backdoor” access to the IT network of a hospital was discovered in the software in communication devices, blood gas analyzer, and X-ray machines.

Minor Protection Steps could Act as Savior of Many

In order to prevent the medical devices from being hacked, protect data, and save the life of patients, healthcare systems and hospital CIOs can follow certain steps identified by experts. Such methods include assess of device cyber security at the time of procurement, maintain basic cyber hygiene, proactively access patch vulnerabilities and risks, and stay informed and alert.

However, as cyber security is at the end of the priority list of healthcare IT and with limited resources, protecting devices from being hacked might be a tough task at hand for hospital CIOs, even though it is a soft spot in terms of security.