Amid the pandemic, connected devices have made a difference for patients and healthcare workers. From self-health management to teleconsultations as well as the overall digitalization of the modern healthcare ecosystem, connected healthcare is growing from strength to strength. However, there has been concerns that such rapid digital transformation is increasing data privacy and cybersecurity risks for consumers, especially if they are unaware. It is time to acknowledge these risks and what can be done to mitigate them.
The Internet of Things has transformed healthcare as we know it. Multiple connected devices have enabled healthcare staff and patients to collect, transfer, and store data between interconnected devices.
From wearable IoT devices like smartwatches that provide a patient’s heart rate and blood oxygen level, to personal medical devices like hearing aids that can be calibrated remotely, these devices have become invaluable both patients and healthcare providers, especially during the pandemic. Moreover, the technology is even proving valuable in geriatric care, with connected devices allowing effective at-home monitoring of seniors without the use of cameras.
Implementing IoT in healthcare has already been shown to have many important benefits, such as increased patient satisfaction, improved efficiency and streamlined data collection all of which contribute to better patient outcomes. On a macro level, smart devices have also played a key role in the fight against the pandemic as well, for instance in contact tracing where IoT devices are integrated with smart sensors and algorithms and connected to an application via the cloud and other connected devices.
However, all this connectivity is not without cybersecurity dangers, namely poor security standards and limited or no encryption. It is essential to keep cybersecurity up to date as medical databases can reveal troves of sensitive information including insurance records and financial data. In addition, hacked personal medical devices can, in specific scenarios, even be turned on or off by attackers. During the pandemic, cybercriminals were already launching ransomware on hospitals and medical services by preventing them from accessing vital files and systems until a ransom is paid.
In this case, what can be done to mitigate these risks? Here are 3 simple security steps that can be done to stop medical hackers in their tracks.
Experts recommend installing firmware updates as soon as these become available to effectively protect against firmware attacks and other threats to your business’s cybersecurity. Users will also enjoy increased speed and enhanced performance with a firmware update. During the process, if an update failure is detected, an alert should be triggered so the device can be otherwise secured or replaced.
Advise users on secure setup and operation
Clear instructions must be given to patients on how to install and configure the device as well as the home network. This will allow for proper operation and a secure connection to transmit encrypted data from the patient to doctor.
Use strong authentication with public keys
For connected devices, utilizing strong authentication with public key schemes is a must. Like those used by online banks, public key authentication uses cryptographic keys to identify and authenticate peers instead of a username and password. When implemented correctly, these modern cryptographic keys are highly-resistant to attack and do not require the user to remember anything.
While medical devices enable next-generation care, they can simultaneously open the door to cybersecurity hacks. This should be worrying for patients and providers and requires immediate action as connected healthcare becomes more prevalent.