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Heart Patients, Diabetics at Increasing Risk from Medical Device Malware

Bianca STANESCU

November 01, 2012

Heart Patients, Diabetics at Increasing Risk from Medical Device Malware

The risk of attacks on medical devices such as defibrillators, pacemakers, insulin pumps, and other software-controlled medical equipment is rising, as cyber-criminals improve hacking techniques, according to Bitdefender.

In September, the US Government Accountability Office also warned about vulnerabilities in computerized medical devices because of outdated software and firmware. Targeted attacks on medical equipment and hospitals pose an even greater degree of risk because there is never enough security in place when it comes to this type of attacks.

Some of the most common types of medical cyber-attacks include Wi-Fi hijacking, spyware installed through network plugs in hospitals, and malware that can overwrite or damage data.

“An unspoken law of IT security is that any vulnerability will eventually be exploited. Patients risk losing their pe rsonal data, and systems within the hospitals may slow down and even become unresponsive if infected,” said Bitdefender Chief Security Researcher Alexandru Balan.The scenarios that may derive from this may very well look like crime movies. Hackers can perform attempts at patients’ lives, steal information about high profile or public figures, and use them as a beachhead for other social-engineered targeted attacks.”

Software-controlled dispatch centers are prone to hacking and spying through their Command and Control Center, which contains video and audio information, and also hazard, and Automatic Resource Locations maps.

Bitdefender advises medical centers to:

  • Tighten security measures, by keeping their operating system, and their antivirus software, updated.
  • Monitor their bring-your-own-device, or BYOD, policies in hospitals and dispatch centers to prevent data breaches.
  • All communication through VPN services should have strong encryption, as basic virtual private networks can be hacked for a few dollars.
  • Medical devices can also be hacked through common flaws in Windows, the operating system used by most of them.
  • Keep any and all WiFi networks outside of the main network, as WiFi hacking is common knowledge for anyone with a tool just downloaded from the Internet.
  • Place Intrusion Detection Systems absolutely everywhere and get warnings whenever attempts are made to access the network or a medical device.

Find out more on smart devices and their blind spot on HotForSecurity.

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