Connected medical devices are being used in various capacities to resolve several issues currently plaguing the healthcare industry on a global scale. Once considered peripheral resources, due to new science and innovation, medical devices and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies have now become integrated into the very fabric of most providers’ IT infrastructure. In 2018, medical providers used a total of 3.7 million devices to care for their patients.  That number is expected to grow to 20-30 billion worldwide by 2020, as more and more practitioners rely on digital equipment to monitor health conditions, analyze treatment progress, and ultimately inform medical decisions. 

Rampant Surge in IoT Devices Poses Cybersecurity Risks

Unfortunately, the proliferating rise in the use of medical devices has caused significant network security concerns. In their efforts to keep pace with consumer demand, many manufacturers have focused on delivery, but have not prioritized cybersecurity. As a result, many of the IoT devices utilized in patient care and therapies are exceptionally vulnerable to a cyber attack. A 2014 report released from the FBI noted that medical devices, particularly those with a network connection and wearable sensors, are more susceptible to cyber attacks and data breaches. Attacks against these devices can quickly prove fatal to an entire healthcare IT network due to easily accessible entry points.

Even as cybersecurity experts race to resolve current cybersecurity vulnerabilities with medical devices, new issues consistently arise within the marketplace. Case in point: Recent statistics revealed that by January 2020, as many as 70 percent of all devices in healthcare environments will be running unsupported Windows operating systems. Allowing provider equipment to run on an unsupported OS instantly increases the risk of a data breach and may even have a direct impact on the regulatory compliance status. 

Healthcare Facilities Reassessing Total Devices Attached 

While most healthcare executives and IT professionals recognize the importance of increasing security for connected medical devices, many still don’t have the proper tools in place for success. A robust and effective security process often begins simply with visibility. Developing a comprehensive inventory of the total number of networked equipment is an excellent first step in overseeing security efforts. 

Unfortunately, more conventional cybersecurity resources often aren’t equipped to manage IoT devices. These traditional tools list only an IP address as a means of designating what’s connected to a network. However, with any IoT apparatus, context plays a mission-critical role in security. It’s not enough to have only an IP address. For example, an MRI machine will require a different cybersecurity approach than an IV pump. When developing a comprehensive security solution, providers must also be able to recognize the type of connected machine as well as its utility. 

Additionally, most medical facilities launch their cybersecurity efforts without integrating newer technology to designate and monitor connected systems. Instead, they repurpose their current (read: obsolete) security solutions, resulting in an approach that isn’t specifically designed to manage and safeguard a diverse collection of devices with a complex mix of operating systems, hardware, and software.  

Partner With a Healthcare Cybersecurity Professional 

Most healthcare administrators realize early in the process that they don’t have the resources and technology needed to effectively count and manage the total number of medical devices connected to their networks. These providers often opt to align their resources with a healthcare network security professional. A qualified team of healthcare IT cybersecurity specialists has the experience and innovation required to drive visibility of all utilized devices. Beyond IP addresses, a reputable firm will have the ability to add context for all networked devices, developing a customized cybersecurity solution that mitigates risk and vulnerability across the entire organization.