Medical device cybersecurity

Medical device cybersecurity

Cybersecurity has become a critical healthcare security concern following an increasing number of high-profile incidents

Medical device cybersecurity is a top concern today. In the modern-day medical environment almost, all medical devices include some type of computer system with networking capability.  This means they are all vulnerable to attacks and security breaches. These can have serious implications for healthcare providers and customers, affecting both the safety patients and their medical data around the world. 

In the past 10 years, there have been several internationally high-profile incidents involving primary healthcare organisations that have put patient information at risk.  In that time, the top 10 Incidents, just In the US alone, have Impacted over one hundred million Individuals.   The statistics get more disturbing the more one researches them.  As of 2020 it was estimated nearly 93% of healthcare organizations have experienced some type of data breach in the preceding three years.  More disturbing Is of those organizations 57% reported five or more data breaches during that same time. The average cost of a data breach for a medical institution is over ten million dollars.  

Though this has raised attention to the threat, healthcare spending on information infrastructure still lags behind other industries being regularly in the bottom two spots when considering IT spend per user.  In the era of connectivity and the Internet of things (IOT), the potential for cyberattacks has become a current topic due to the monetary value that private patient information is worth. Now is the time for healthcare networks to invest across their Infrastructure and user base to minimise the risk and safeguard their systems. 

The importance of cybersecurity for medical devices

The use of smartphones, computers, and tablets with internet access as a fundamental part of our lives.  This makes cybersecurity a crucial practice both personally and professionally to protect systems, networks and programs from digital attacks. Cybersecurity awareness helps to protect our accounts, data and our devices. 

As any healthcare company or organisation can be targeted due to the vast amount of confidential information and personal data they hold, the cybersecurity of medical devices is extremely important. Outdated systems and technology make these systems more vulnerable and an easy point of entry for attackers.  A study of medical devices revealed over 60% of them being at end of life with an average of 6 known vulnerabilities.  From the vendor side validating and testing new systems presents a high expense from resource and monetary point of view, thus development lags. 

It is necessary to ensure secure medical devices for many different reasons. All firms and healthcare establishments are mandated to comply with regulatory requirements and prerequisites to ensure the safety of their patients which can be compromised during a cyberattack.  This responsibility falls squarely on the medical Institutions as vendors are normally not mandated to comply with any specific cybersecurity requirements.  Because of the extremely narrow focus of many medical devices and relatively limited competition less focus Is put on data and device security during development.  The end users and medical facilities therefore must educate staff and put security measures In place within their networks.  Failure to do so can lead to serious and costly penalties, negative publicity, and a lack of the public’s trust.  

Principles of medical device cybersecurity

Cybersecurity is an integral part of device safety in any industry and healthcare is no exception. Medical device safety has become increasingly important in recent years due to the use of IOT and the high-profile attacks around the globe they have been subjected to. 

To have robust cybersecurity standards, the main principles of medical device cybersecurity involve reasonable and effective security systems that can assure transparency. On top of this, the international standard requires stakeholders to implement security risk management and up to date cybersecurity testing that provides objective evidence. 

User training Is critical.  Over one third of breaches happen via user account access usually initiated by phishing emails or fake support calls to users.  A large amount of these can be prevented through ongoing user training and education.  

Security risk management

The threat of security attacks against medical devices worldwide makes risk management a crucial element of cybersecurity. Considering the volume of personal data that is stored and processed in healthcare facilities, it is recommended that these institutions identify the potential risks for data breaches and implement a plan to address them accordingly. 

Best practice in security risk management involves having both technical and organisational measures that are widely understood and implemented by staff such as effective security policies for tracking, monitoring, and analysing private data and live monitoring and detecting. In addition, having authentication mechanisms, network segmentation and data encrypting are also adequate ways to safeguard patients’ information. 

Cybersecurity testing

Another best practice to implement in any medical device is cybersecurity testing. By using several methodologies and strategies, such as Security Scanning or Penetration Testing, facilities can identify, evaluate, and process any vulnerabilities in their system.  This testing should coincide with creating and training on a solid plan in case of a cyberattack, or breach which will help to minimise or even prevent a higher level of damage.

Not fully implementing medical device cybersecurity or having inadequate systems in place, can have severe consequences affecting any healthcare institution and all their patients which is why all organisations should have appropriate medical device cybersecurity certifications in place.

Delos Wilbur

 Director of Technical Services

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