Increasing Threats of Hackers in Medical Systems

We try to protect our devices with anti-virus software, malware downloads, and built-in firewalls. We don’t open email attachments that look strange and don’t click on ads that are too good to be true. However, hackers continue their attempts to wreak havoc in technology.  They will send emails stating that your computer has a virus and must you must pay them to fix it. They purchase advertising on websites and hide bugs into them. Most people don’t realize that the US healthcare system is unprepared to defend itself against any cyberattack.

In the past two months, the attack on pharma company Merck’s computers cut into production of medicine. Digital worms and malware are creating damage in the healthcare sector. Most hospitals have ten to 15 medical devices per hospital bed, all connected to a network.

Dr. Christian Dameff, an emergency room physician, co-led a summit at the University of Arizona College of Medicine on medical device hacking. Some of the scenarios they predict include: a malicious worm in a particular medical device, causing thousands of patients to collapse; an attack on a whole region of hospitals, leaving them without electronic medical records and forcing patient evacuation elsewhere; a terror attack that coincides with a hack against the city’s hospitals.

There are wireless capabilities to certain medical devices like pacemakers and insulin pumps, but hackers must be in close proximity to the devices or manufacturers.

Medical and scientific advances are moving faster than the ability to keep devices secure. Even large hospitals have little cybersecurity, often with only one or two techs who work with manufacturers on upgrades. Older machines, like MRI scanners, have vulnerable software that cannot be updated without replacing the entire machine.

Hackers are realizing the wide impact that cyberattacks have in the health care system, and this may be inciting cyber criminals. Dependence on technology can be a dangerous thing if not protected properly.
Johnson, Tim. “Cyber criminals’ next deadly target: Grandpa’s pacemaker.” Technology. The Sacramento Bee, 7 Aug 2017. Web. 8 Aug 2017.

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