June 23, 2024

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How Secure Are Home Medical Devices?

Hackers can infiltrate medical devices as much as they can a standard computer. The world aims for interconnection, where every home medical device can transmit and receive data instantaneously with the help of the Internet of Things (IoT). The Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) is a rising industry revolutionizing the efficacy of health care and management, providing peace of mind to patients in recovery and prompt data to health care providers.

Home medical devices must have ample security to have marketable and practical effectiveness. Safety measures protect patients as much as they solidify the integrity of big data in health care. Health care professionals need home medical devices to be accurate as they strive to collect as much information as possible to accelerate diagnosis times and create medical solutions through machine-learning data sets. As grand as these visions sound when changing health care for the better, are they possible with the current security of home medical devices?

How Home Medical Devices Fail

Though countless renditions of the home computer and phone exist, medical devices contain even more parts and applications that make a comprehensive security solution for all medical devices impossible. When teams attempt to make sweeping implementations without understanding the nuance of each instrument — a defibrillator in an adult is vastly different in construction than blood glucose meters for pediatrics — blindspots are inevitable.

These assumptions are particularly damaging in a more health-conscious world, as COVID-19 has increased health paranoia and doctor visits. Home medical device sales will only increase, especially as they are more prescribed to aging populations and requested by the youth who want to monitor their health.

Despite how these home medical devices vary across medical niches, they’re often mass-manufactured and contain the same blueprints. For cybersecurity professionals, this consistency is a red flag, especially when they don’t have security infrastructure built-in. If hackers tamper with one device and uncover its backdoors, breaking into others is not difficult.

Heterogeneity in devices compounds alongside the device’s life span. Home medical device manufacturers make these machines durable because service disruption could be life-threatening. Without access to updates, these devices become more vulnerable as the device remains unchanged and hackers become more innovative.

Adversely, home medical devices are susceptible to security issues because they’re becoming more connected to AI. The greater the data stack, the more surface area hackers have to penetrate devices. Though device connectivity forges a more informed medical industry, it requires more effort from tech teams to protect more than just the device itself.

How IoMT Creates Concerns

Some medical devices that keep humans alive — notably implants — present a more severe cybersecurity situation than a laptop or software. Patients and medical professionals question how volatile medical devices already are and how much more they could become when reliant upon an interconnected hub like the Internet of Things. IoMT must maintain connectivity and security. Otherwise, lives could be at risk.

Additionally, wearable medical devices are more prominent now than ever, especially as smart watches implement more health metrics into their functionalities. Is humanity’s IoMT technology capable in the present to handle this responsibility?

Prominent medjacking attacks on home medical devices in recent years have sparked more productive discourse around progress. Customer distrust in connected medical devices is a primary motivator for these conversations, especially as Fuelband and Fitbit are only a few that have been subject to breaches. One of the most common is eavesdropping, where attackers gain access to home medical devices by uncovering credentials.

Access leads to countless other extortion methods. Medical data is priceless to hackers, and executing a ransomware attack is one way to bank on that. Malicious, targeted attacks could put individual lives at stake if threat actors manipulate data to change allergy information or cover up concerning data points that signal patients need assistance.

Attackers may not even want to sell information back to providers in the form of ransomware. They could keep that intellectual property for themselves, which can disrupt the progress of home medical devices worldwide.

Where Home Medical Devices Can Improve

IT departments and cybersecurity teams can shoulder responsibility for overseeing the cybersecurity of MedTech. However, medical devices vary significantly from phones or computers, and experienced biomedical engineers are essential to security success. Ignoring their expertise puts the machines at risk from the start. Open communications between these teams will have immense gravity over the device’s defenses, especially if other groups are involved in the supply chain for specific parts.

The medical sector is known for its unwillingness to spend money on cybersecurity, and hackers know it. If enterprises change the public perception of security on home medical devices, it may increase resistance to hackers. Here are some cybersecurity practices teams can experiment with over the various home medical devices:

  • Endpoint protection: Securing every connected device with antiviral software and encryption and upgrading to machines that support these functionalities.
  • Zero-trust: Ensuring access to these devices requires authorization and minimizing permissions.
  • Penetration testing: Utilizing white hat hackers or other measures to perform mock hacks into machines to discover vulnerabilities.
  • Compliance: Implementing frameworks like HIPAA and CMMC to increase device integrity and abide by governmental oversight.

The luxury of home medical devices is the ability for remote research to happen. Decentralized trials increase accessibility and reduce friction among participants. Medical companies can initiate more widespread clinical trials to gain insight into the most authentic environments. Analysts could see if home networks exacerbate security issues or what attacks are most frequent for differing home medical devices.

Another area of concern is health care data silos. As IoMT becomes more prominent, data security must become stronger in an industry reluctant to adopt new technology that’s better at keeping personally identifying health information safe. Dismissing these data stores as a part of home medical device security would continue to endanger patients and medical facilities.

Securing Data and Patients

Makers are crafting home medical devices to become more secure every day. IoMT could solve issues as much as introduce novel threats, but the process will be about adaptation. Analysts, engineers, and IT professionals must connect to develop an exhaustive understanding of future medical devices, making them resilient against hackers and safe for patients.

Picture of By Emily Newton

By Emily Newton

Emily Newton is a tech journalist. As Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized, she regularly covers science and technology stories. Subscribe to Innovation & Tech Today to read more from Emily.

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