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IoT Security Concerns in the World of Healthcare Devices

Healthcare Devices: Then and Now

Healthcare devices through the ages: what was once a cumbersome trip to the doctor for testing, followed by a series of manual documentation steps, is now a convenient, internet-connected wearable device that automates the transmission of patient information. Implanted devices are only one of many different wearable devices out on the market today. The majority of wearable healthcare devices connect to an internet or cloud-based system that allows users to interact with those devices while transmitting information to be used for actionable medical insight.

Let’s face it: the healthcare industry has evolved, but healthcare data is just as sensitive as it was in the past (if not more). Whether it be a Fitbit, a blood pressure monitor, or an implanted pacemaker, there is an internet connection within your device that allows data to be transmitted and could possibly eliminate the need for a trip to the doctor. Convenient, without question, but the FDA hasn’t issued any regulatory requirements for data security; the FDA has issued guidance, but guidance is not law. HIPAA exists to protect patient health information, which may extend to data being transmitted, but doesn’t stipulate ways to secure it.

Healthcare IoT Security Deficiencies

Healthcare IoT devices make interacting with patients and monitoring relevant data easier, sure. But companies manufacturing wearable devices and healthcare organizations prescribing them are now at grave risk of data breaches, stealing of intellectual property, and system outages as a result of malicious activity. Worse, there is also a risk of physical impact where implanted devices are concerned. The reality is, we’re now living in a world where without proper precautions, a patient’s heart could be hacked.

Top Healthcare Device Security Risks

  • Unauthorized access to devices
  • Corrupted coding controlling the dispensing of medicines or health data collection
  • Harm to a patient’s safety and health
  • Loss of protected health information
  • Stolen intellectual property

The Road to Stronger Healthcare IoT Security

Moving toward secure usage of internet-connected healthcare devices needs to begin with healthcare device and application manufacturers. Security cannot be an afterthought; it must be built into products and services during the product development process. This method will prevent access from the start, limiting the range of security oversights cyber criminals are looking to capitalize on. Manufacturers should also be diligent about retrofitting security into existing products and services. If strong security doesn’t become part of the package, the impact to healthcare device and application manufacturers will be devastating.

When it comes to healthcare organizations, such as hospitals and doctors’ offices, robust security policies and procedures for prescribing and interacting with IoT devices need to be enacted, reviewed regularly, and maintained. Complying with regulatory or risk management requirements is a good first step, but strong security practices on an ongoing basis will minimize risk, exposure, and provide a remediation methodology in the event of a possible breach.

If your healthcare organization is struggling with the challenges of an evolving medical security landscape, reaching out to a reputable information security expert for advice on how to secure your devices is crucial.