Cyber security for IoT based Medical Devices

Cyber security for IoT based Medical Devices safe or not

Now that we are fully engrossed in the cyber age, there are rapid advances across the board for all things connected in the Internet of Things, aka IoT. The data and devices within IoT will certainly make much of life much easier.  It’s the cyber security for IoT based medical devices that is of most conern.   For consumer product goods outside of medical devices, the networks and semiconductors and embedded modules required are not available yet on a massive scale.  We need 5G and new homes for that.

However, for the medical profession, it has certainly become a simple, safe and easy way to monitor patients away from a clinical setting.  This is all fine and good, but there is a fundamental question of IoT that needs answering: Are these safe and secure when away from a closed environment?  Is cyber security for IoT based medical devices ready to address potential hacking or theft issues that home networks, Wi-Fi, and home devices face and possible ways to prevent cyberattacks?

Issues at Stake for Healthcare Professionals

The number one concern of healthcare professionals looking at and addressing potential problems is the HIPAA.  This protection act of 1996 means patients under the care of physicians have a reasonable expectation of privacy and are protected under a patient/medical professional relationship.

IoT’s are free from human intervention by and large.  This means the patient carrying the device is completely removed from interacting with it on any level.  Most of the devices are used strictly for monitoring, data collection and medical dispensing.  They are passive because the medical professionals are looking for a true a baseline as possible and is only effective when the patient is at ease with or completely unaware of the device. This lack of concern is the problem.

Cyber security for IoT based Medical Devices Safe or Not?

The information transmitted, no matter how insignificant at the time, could be used to gain identity information.  The IoT’s are often coded to the patient with a name, number and medical coding information.  All that would be needed is access to the information on the device, and personal, private information is available.  This includes social security numbers, medical information and possible fiscal information to boot.  This compromised information is enough to wreak havoc on a medical practice, hospital or medical equipment distributor – if not all of them in conjunction – all because of a HIPAA violation.  Therefore, IT security professionals must make sure that cyber security for IoT based medical devices is up-to-date and tested for vulnerabilities.

While computers have software to keep them from attacks, these medical devices do not.  There is scant little that can be done if malfeasance is intended.  A skilled and determined computer hacking specialist with the understanding of IoT’s can quickly and easily undermine its basics.  Doing so would cause serious issue with the medical professional monitoring the patient and for the patient, who could, as a result, receive incorrect treatments and/or medications.  Unable to track the information back to a source, this could potentially open a flood of medical malpractice suits, and there would be little the medical professional could provide as a substantial defense.

Potential Solutions in Cyber security for IoT based Medical Devices

Medical administration in conjunction with information teams and network security specialists should realize there needs to be a move from the “Internet of Things” to “Security of Things” to protect themselves, their practices and patients from hacking.  There are a few things that could be considered.  Safe and secure data encryption should be on the forefront of cyber security for IoT based medical devices.  As more and more medical practices move from paper to online and cloud patient records, the same can be said for IoT’s.  Signed contracts with network encryption professionals about software and the devices themselves should be a first step.  Each contract to include audits, verifications and regular testing to ensure the validity and security of the data on the IoT.

Cyber security for IoT based Medical DevicesA Holter monitor is one of these IoT’s.  Its purpose is to collect a 24-hour EKG for cardiac patients in various settings for the best possible heart function in normal settings.  The contract should provide for each device to collect only the necessary information and nothing more.  Systems that download, read or output the information is additionally a part of the contract.

The device should be built in a such a way that any tampering of any sort is quickly noticed and/or built in such a way that the device immediately informs the medical professionals.  Patient contracts protecting the device is also a sound idea.

The physical cyber security for IoT based medical devices itself also should not be overlooked. The device should be configured to prevent data storage media from being accessed or removed, and the device itself should not be easily disassembled. In short, building a strong security to protect data during transmission is undercut if the data can be removed from the device itself.

Only a medical professional can dispense medical advice, so only those who will be reading the results need access to the data contained thereon.  All information should only be retrieved under a secure server under select passwords.  Only the necessary individuals outside of those interpreting the data need access to any element of the entire procedure.

Proper training for every step only makes sense.  All medical professionals are bound under an ethics code with severe penalties for infringement.  There have not yet been any serious attacks on medical IoT’s.  When will it happen is the question.  Ideally, every possible step should be covered; however, there is no guarantee of anything until an attack.  What are your thoughts and opinions on the issue, and what steps in addition to those mentioned would be a necessary part of enhancing cyber security for IoT based medical devices?

Craig Hufford

Craig Hufford

Managing Partner
Executive Search Consultant - Power Systems, Aerospace, IFE, Medical Devices...
Craig Hufford

@nextgencraig

Retained executive search recruiter for aerospace & defense, airborne power, cyber security, medical devices. Linkedin http://t.co/kjw6L4Cp and Facebook
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Craig Hufford