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Protecting patients from hackers

1. Why does medical device security matter?

Societies are increasingly dependent on medical device technologies to deliver healthcare, which make up one third of a hospital’s total infrastructure. Unfortunately, much of this hospital technology is old and extremely insecure, which puts patient safety at risk.

2. Why are these medical devices insecure?

Medical devices have extremely long lifecycles, sometimes in use for over 15 years. During this time the software operating these devices becomes unsupported, which means security fixes are not applied. In addition, many of these old devices were not designed or built with security in mind. This means the medical devices have become hackable. Cybercriminals or nation states can exploit such conditions to gain advantage, potentially at the cost of human safety.

3. What happens if a legacy medical device gets hacked?

When a medical device is compromised, hackers can potentially control their operation. Beyond malfunction, a hacked medical device can cause patient harm, even death. This risk goes far beyond the data theft incidents we read about in newspapers, posing significant risks to patient safety. It also threatens to destabilize our trust in healthcare systems.

4. What is Justine Bone doing to address this?

Justine’s goal is to improve patient safety by identifying and fixing cybersecurity problems in healthcare systems. Justine and her company work with industry associations, technology providers and hospitals all over the world to improve security. This work, much of it voluntary, continues through a pandemic when many resources have needed to be diverted. It takes bold action to push for higher security standards in healthcare delivery, but it needs to be done.

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