While medical devices are often designed for decades of use in hospitals, the software needed to run them becomes outdated more quickly. This results in devices running vulnerable software on healthcare networks, which can expose patients to physical and cyber threats.
In response to the threats facing medical devices, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has released recommendations for the healthcare sector to bolster the cybersecurity of medical devices.
Consequences of medical device cyberattacks
Cybersecurity threats to medical devices can initiate a range of adverse effects. "On the extreme side, you have the scenario where a medical device compromise could directly impact patient safety and potentially be life-threatening," said Ben Denkers, Chief Innovation Officer at CynergisTek. "What could an attacker do if they took control of an insulin pump or pacemaker?"
While medical device takeovers have the potential to cause life-threatening consequences, many cyberattacks on medical devices lead to system downtime, rather than complete control of devices. "The most common consequence is healthcare organizations must deny service to the individual because the device no longer works or requires supporting infrastructure, which has also been compromised. Where time becomes a critical success factor in many medical emergencies, this can also have severe patient impacts," said Denkers.
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