Despite the complexity of health care, there are many measures to mitigate the risks of cyberattacks on medical equipment.
A hospital bed, on average, has up to 20 medical devices connected to it. Each of those devices has a digital component that transmits patient data to a hospital’s computer network. This means there’s always a risk of a compromised system, as all it takes is one vulnerable endpoint.
“Like other industries, health care is undergoing digital transformation. Medical technology is evolving, so more and more computerized devices get installed and connected to a health care facility’s network. The downside of this improvement is that it might become easier for hackers to intercept the system because unprotected devices accelerate vulnerabilities.
A health care organization’s network is a very complex environment to control as it consists of a massive variety of equipment, databases and systems that often include connections to external sources and third-party providers. On top of that, there are personal devices, like smartphones and laptops, brought in and used by the staff and patients.
“Health care providers have a large attack surface, and the complexity of the industry makes it extremely difficult for them to come up with effective defensive mechanisms, cybersecurity policies and procedures.
Outdated systems and practices are one part of the problem. Underinvestment in cybersecurity, which leads to the inability of health care practitioners to identify and deal with persistent cyber threats, is another big issue.
“Add a vast array of substantial medical records a hospital stores, and we have a ticking bomb. Deliberately tampering with stolen patient data could facilitate identity theft, extortion or even put human lives in danger.
Even though vendors providing hospitals with medical equipment and services have to comply with various standards and regulations, the staff can also contribute to making sure the technologies are used securely. Everything starts from breaking cybersecurity down into smaller parts and taking it one step at a time.
Potential measures to mitigate the risks of cyberattacks on medical devices include:
There’s a great need for reform within the health care industry as it is still lacking the initiative to prioritize cybersecurity. However, a lot can be done, starting from within an organization. As a part of risk management, contingency plans for different scenarios should be set up in advance.
Oliver Noble is a cybersecurity expert at NordLocker, an encryption-powered data protection solution.
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