As newer systems and innovations within MedTech emerge and grow in sophistication, security is paramount. Recent cyber threats have led to some large infiltrations in systems and servers, causing massive privacy and security infringement. What does this mean for cybersecurity and MedTech going forward?

 

Some of the recent concerns over hacking MedTech innovations sound like something out of a Jason Bourne film. Control over insulin pumps could mean increasing a patients' blood sugar, remotely accessing a pacemaker could allow a hacker to disable it and these are just the early concerns. With Medtech innovations like Neuralink on the horizon, we are looking at a myriad of potential cybersecurity concerns. What does this mean then for the future of MedTech and cyber threats? The initial priority for the Medical sector will be to ensure that the highest standards are implemented as innovations are adopted. Whether this is done to protect sensitive clinical data or to ensure the health and safety of a patient, the precaution has to be taken seriously. 

 

What are the Risks in MedTech?

While current risks of cyberattacks in the MedTech have largely been secluded to data breaches, there are very real possibilities of more severe and immediate risks to patients. In 2017 the NHS WannaCry Ransomeware attack saw thousands of appointments cancelled, and ambulances misdirected to incorrect locations. The total damage of this attack cost £72 million in IT repairs. While the financial cost was quite high there was the more immediate and serious danger of patient endangerment. Ambulances not getting to the correct locations on time, for example, could have resulted in a loss of life.

 

As we edge towards a more automated future with new innovations such as wearable MedTech, insulin pumps, or even implantable brain-machine interfaces so too we edge towards a future with greater possibilities for hackers. As GlobalData medical device analyst David Brown discussed with his example of CT scanners discovered by Israeli researchers at Ben-Gurion University.

 

“They demonstrated that CT scanners with outdated software were vulnerable to attack and would allow the adjustments of applied radiation to harmful levels,”

 

While this may seem a far-fetched example, it is nonetheless a possibility. Moreover, it illustrates that with creativity and with the implementation of innovative new technologies - which have not had sufficient security measures taken to prevent hacking - there are more than a few opportunities for people to be at risk from cyber-attacks.

Types of Cyber Security

Practically all cyber-threats can be executed in a variety of different ways. While there are many manners by which to execute them some of the most common cyber-threats are:

Ransomware

An assault that comprises encrypting data on the victim's system and commanding a ransom in exchange for allowing the user access to the data again. These cyber threats range from low-level breaches to severe incidents.

Malware

This is a form of software that delivers a malicious task onto the victim's machine or network. This can include corrupting data and gaining complete access to the device.

Trojans

This type of cyber threat is a form of malware that accesses a victims system looking for what may appear to be an initially inconspicuous file but then releases a malicious code once inside the host system. 

Phishing

As an email-borne assault, phishing occurs when the hacker deceives the victim into divulging sensitive and often confidential information or perhaps through downloading malware via a hyperlink which the attacker has embedded in the email.

Spear Phishing

One of the more advanced types of cyber threats, Spear phishing involves the hacker learning about the victims' identity, thus using it to impersonate her/him. They can then use their trust to gain confidential information about the individual.

Denial of Service attack or Distributed Denial of Service Attack (DDoS)

A DDoS attack occurs when a hacker uses hundreds, possibly even thousands, of devices, which they have taken control of, and uses them to crash a system i.e. a website, with too many demands, causing it to crash and be temporarily inaccessible.

Data Breaches

A data breach is commonplace in FinTech and MedTech. It is essentially the theft of information by the hacker. This is often done in an attempt to blackmail, or elicit a specific action from the victim(s).

How to Protect Against CyberAttacks within MedTech

Keep Your Passwords Complex & Always Changing

It's the simplest and easiest way to ensure that your systems are not infiltrated by ill-mannered hackers. Use longer passwords with capital and lower case letters, unique characters and not something that an attacker could not figure out by just talking to you. Renewing these passwords as well is vital to ensure that you keep any potential attackers on their toes. Renewing your passwords once every two months ought to be a standard for healthcare cybersecurity.

Update Your Software Consistently

Assuring IT software and operating systems are patched with the latest protection patches are crucial to protecting your devices. These updated patches resolve the latest and most penetrable weak spots. The "Wannacry" ransomware attack used a vulnerability in the SMB application-layer network protocol of the Windows Operating System. Although the outbreak originally transpired in May, the vulnerability that Wannacry utilised had previously been resolved by Microsoft in March 2017. Most of the infected devices simply had not patched their operating system in time, resulting in widespread disruption at significant cost to the victims.

Install Anti-Virus Protection Software

Strong, up-to-date anti-virus software can do wonders as a premeditative initiative to prevent cyber-attacks. Anti-virus software not only scans your folders and files, performs daily updates for the latest fixes to a security vulnerability, but also signals you upon detecting infected or suspicious files and prevent it from spreading.

Backing Up Data

This practice is an essential one, not just for cybersecurity but also for protecting client information. Backing up data can prevent hackers from blackmailing victims from deleting the stolen data. 

Have A Cybersecurity Plan

Ensuring that your IT team has a system in place to protect against threats could mean all the difference. Helping your staff learn how to be more cautious with suspect files, emails, or downloads and how to handle any potential threats are vital to maintaining cybersecurity and system integrity. However, if the inevitable does occur you should still have a strategy that you can employ. How do you respond to the attack? What is the impact on your immediate functions, devices, and data? Considering these will allow you and your team to contain a potential breach.

As we continue towards a future of hyper-advanced computer information systems we need to become more wary of cyber threats. If attackers continue to become more creative in their strategies this means that healthcare cybersecurity needs to maintain an even stronger and updated defensive strategy.