By Xu Zou, CEO and co-founder, Zingbox.
Recent research was published by the Washington Post about malware that was created to disrupt medical imaging equipment and networks. This is yet another wake-up call for the healthcare industry that been underinvesting in security for the last decade. Quite simply, there is a misconception that hospitals’ internal networks are a safe harbor from external cyberattacks. This is despite the fact that the real-world data has repeatedly shown that healthcare is one of the top industries under attack for the last five years. While previous attacks mainly focused on stealing personal health information, this research demonstrates how serious or even deadly an attack to healthcare can be.
There are a few reasons why cyberattacks in healthcare today can have devastating consequences.
Medical device vulnerabilities
Many medical devices inside hospitals are running decade old operating systems and applications that have many well-known vulnerabilities. In fact, it may be a surprise to many that the vast majority of imaging systems run on Windows OS. Further, recent Zingbox research shows that today, 1 out of 4 imaging systems run on OSes that are no longer supported. By next year, 85% of imaging systems are expected to run on End-of-Lifed OSes as Microsoft terminates support for some of their popular Windows OSes.
To make matters worse, most medical device manufacturers lack strong in-house cybersecurity expertise. While their expertise lies in device reliability and accuracy, which continue to be top requirements for connected medical devices, the lack of cybersecurity expertise puts the device reliability and accuracy into question. The lack of cyber-specific expertise also limits manufacturers’ ability to “bake in” cybersecurity measures on the device.
One might think that patches and upgrades are the answer. Unfortunately, no. FDA certification and other requirements pose significant hurdles for manufacturers to apply patches or upgrades to devices already deployed at hospitals.
Tools designed for IoT
Many hospitals lack the tools to monitor life-critical devices with 100% assurance of uninterrupted service and care. Such tools must be completely transparent to the device and in no way interfere or hamper its operation. Yet, organizations continue to rely on traditional IT security solutions for IoT. Such network security tools like firewalls and antiviruses result in security gaps that hackers can easily exploit.
Vulnerabilities that stem from inadequate IoT security tools:
- Most network security solutions often cannot discern a PC from a CT scanner, whereas such a distinction is critical for cybersecurity.
- CT scanner’s communication is almost never encrypted, device access doesn’t require basic authentication, and given the mobility of typical CT scanners, the devices can be connected to any internal network, according to Zingbox’s research findings.
- Connecting a device to any network breaks the basic micro-segmentation policies IT teams have been encouraged to deploy for cybersecurity.