Healthcare Technology Featured Article

January 19, 2017

Is the IoT Making Hospitals Vulnerable?

While hospitals benefit substantially from using cloud-based technology systems, they are also becoming an extremely attractive target for potential cyberattacks. As the use of the Internet of Things continues to grow at an exponential rate, it is of utmost importance for hospitals to address the threat of cybercriminals abusing patient data.

Adopting advanced technologies without proper security comes with the inherent risk of the information being vulnerable to hackers. The healthcare industry should be aware of their security protocols that connect patient information to the Internet of Things and address solutions to reduce the risk for breach.

Vulnerabilities of IoT Solutions

The Internet of Things stores essential patient information that hospitals often rely on for saving lives and treating patients. Security of the IoT devices can be difficult to address when data is frequently shared among the devices and old legacy systems.

Not only is the movement of data vulnerable to malicious hacking, the physical device security is at risk when they are left in open areas of the hospital. If a device ends up in the wrong hands, patient information is at a significant risk of breach.

Getting Involved in the Preliminary Development Stages

While it is difficult to remediate the full risks associated with using the Internet of Things, the protection of patient data is extremely important and should be managed proactively. Hospitals should engage in the development of IoT devices in order to ensure that the manufacturers are designing products that will meet their IT requirements and limit their vulnerability.

Scaling to Improve Protection

As hospitals become more dependent on IoT devices, they must scale to the proper level of security required to protect their information. Hospitals should address IoT decisions with a high level of caution to ensure that they are choosing a solution that fits their needs but also protects the sensitive data that will be housed on the devices. As the population of smart devices grows, healthcare organizations must define security requirements for how the IoT devices are interconnected.

When the design and testing stages of medical equipment takes several years to go into production, the lifespan of the IoT devices is already threatened before the device is in use. This time gap can potentially be remediated by focusing efforts on improving the configuration to allow upgrades in the field.

Developing a Security Alert System for Patient Data

The current state of IoT devices could leave a data breach undetected for a long period of time and potentially lead to hackers abusing sensitive patient information. The devices are not designed to offer protection for unintended use cases, which is a weakness that should be addressed with added security.

The information shared between smart devices should be not only password protected, but backed by an alert system that will send proactive alerts to security personnel in the case of specific device activity. Hospitals should invest in added security measures that will improve the safety of the information.

Implementing Controls in the Rollout Process

In order to protect the hospitals from cyberattacks, the device rollout process should have firm controls in place to limit security threats. When the software is deployed to the IoT devices, the network should be secured with added layers of protection and any remaining vulnerabilities should be closely monitored. Keeping the rollouts secure will help to reduce the potential attack surfaces that are open to criminal penetration.

The gateways that are connecting the devices to the network should be secured prior to placing any devices in the field. Implementing multi-leveled authentication processes can also help to mitigate the risk of a massive data breach during a rollout of new devices.

Training Healthcare Professionals on Proper Use

The information stored on the Internet of Things should be protected with security protocols both within the devices and by the professionals accessing the data. Training healthcare professionals on how to properly secure the devices and protect patient data can help to reduce the risks of a security part. The BLS certification courses and other healthcare certifications should include training on how to obtain life-saving patient information without compromising the security of the data.

With the increasing use of IoT technology, there is an elevated risk for malicious cyberattacks.

Automation may be a priority for the healthcare system but it should not be at the cost of patient security. Hospitals need to invest in developing improvements to the Internet of Things not only at the manufacturer level, but at the user and device levels as well. In order to address the vulnerabilities of IoT devices, it is critical for hospitals to implement firm security measures.

Edited by Alicia Young
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By Special Guest
Rick Delgado, Content Writer ,


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