Hospitals should ‘wash their hands’ of older medical devices, OS: expert

Our Readers are likely well aware that older medical devices may present a Hacker’s Holiday, but putting a very fine point on it was Kevin Fu, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at University of Michigan, speaking at a Healthcare IT News healthcare cybersecurity forum this week in Boston. Mr Fu pointed out that many hospitals are actively using old devices and old PC systems; one local hospital had 600 supposedly unpatched Windows XP (!) boxes deployed. Older medical devices were not designed with security in mind, which he likens to basic sanitation:

“If you’re using this old software, these old operating systems, you’re vulnerable to all that malware – that garden-variety malware – that has been out in the wild for more than 10 years.” and “This is not rocket science; this is basic hygiene. This is forgetting to wash your hands before going into the operating room. Here we have medical devices where, if malware gets through the perimeter, there is very little defense.”

The press has been concentrating on the big breaches and external hacking (they do make good copy–Ed.), and we’ve expended a lot of air on things like the EHR Wars, but the real threats are more mundane, as Ponemon and others in the field have warned for years. Software updates and infected USB flash drives can spread malware. A vendor can be a regular Typhoid Mary unintentionally corrupting systems and devices down the line. But much of the problem is that many devices and systems have long hospital stays, so to speak, and have very basic flaws that invite hackers. A drug infusion pump manufactured by Hospira was the subject of an FDA recall purely on cybersecurity grounds–a first. (See this analysis) Literally, it was control one pump, control them all on a network, and that can kill. Medical device security? Forget hackers, think ‘hand-washing’ (Healthcare IT News)

Related in TTA: Review our multitude of articles on hacking and data security

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