Cyber attacks can have devastating healthcare consequences


June 09, 2012

An increased uptake in wireless technology has left some medical facilities – and their patients – exposed to new security vulnerabilities.

A new US report prepared by the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center reveals that wireless medical devices (MDs) – which are connected to information technology (IT) networks – are creating new opportunities in this field, but are not without their risks.

Healthcare and public health organisations have much to gain from emerging wireless technology that allows for remote access – benefiting from enhanced operations, improved ease of use and rapid computing speed.

However, the report asserted, “the communications security of MDs to protect against theft of medical information and malicious intrusion is now becoming a major concern”.

Vulnerabilities in such wireless systems could have a number of dangerous consequences – ranging from vandalism, device reprogramming or even the loss or theft of sensitive medical information, which can compromise patients’ personal privacy and can result in identity theft.

Often, according to the report, these vulnerabilities can arise through poor security practices, misconfigured networks or errors made during the implementation or deployment of new technologies.

These can also occur through the increasing uptake of mobile devices and wireless networks.

Sometimes, these technologies are so new that IT departments are unaware of how to adequately secure them or keep up with changing trends. Others fail to install the adequate updated to these systems, which can open them up to further risks later down the line.

Penetration testing is one strategy that can be used to identify these risks and can help businesses of all types – including healthcare organisations – stay on top of any potential operational weaknesses.

This type of testing can not only alert you to any potential security issues that could affect your business, but also the consequences – both operational and financial – of a malicious attack.

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