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Medical devices that could put you at security risk

Apr 27, 20174 mins
Internet of ThingsMobile SecuritySecurity

Conversations surrounding connected medical device security has usually focused on connected pacemakers and insulin pumps.

mri scanner
Credit: Thinkstock

Everyone has heard of connected insulin pumps and pace makers, but there are some other connected medical devices that might surprise you. Each of them of course pose a security risk to you and your health.

Mandeep Khera, Internet of Things security expert at Arxan, ran through some of these lesser known devices. Made famous by Dick Cheney’s disconnected IoT pacemaker, the security community is abuzz with speculation about potential dangers that could result from a hacked connected medical device.

And while pacemakers and insulin pumps have received their 15 minutes of fame, there are a myriad of other connected medical “things” that are either already available or in development, Khera said.

“Although these things have yet to be maliciously hacked (as far as we know), they could pose a threat in the future. There have been attempts made at hacking various connected devices and it’s only a matter of time before it happens,” he said.

Hacking on these devices can have various consequences from ransomware to loss of life. Which is why the Food and Drug Administration is taking this so seriously, he said, and has created strict guidelines for both pre-market and post-market devices. Here is a look at some of the latest developments in connected medical devices:

1. Brain implants – Connected brain implants are being used to treat seizures, Parkinson’s, and even OCD. Patients with smart brain implants pass a wand-like device over the implant, which uploads brain activity to the cloud. This process allows doctors to monitor patient brain function to make informed decisions regarding care. According to a story by NBC, across the nation, 128 of them have been installed since the FDA approved the device in 2013. Clinical trials showed a 38 percent drop in the average number of seizures per month.

2. Vital monitors – Developments in vital monitoring technology now grant healthcare providers with real-time access to important clinical measurements, including patient temperature, heart rate, and respiratory rate. Connected vital monitors continuously gather data and distil multiple tests into a single cloud-based platform, so healthcare providers can review test results anytime, and anyplace.

3. Connected medication dispensers – To manage chronic illness effectively, patients must adhere to strict medication recommendations. However, it’s often difficult to follow recommendations, especially when they require vigilance over a long period of time. To combat this, companies like Philips Medido have developed connected medication dispensers that closely monitor usage and alert healthcare staff when medication is not administered correctly or taken consistently.

4. MRI scannersMRI scanners traditionally require a trained technician to operate machinery and record findings. Historically, this process has been bulky and time-intensive, preventing patients and medical professionals from accessing results in near real-time. Connected MRI scanners now have the ability to record and store files in the cloud.

5. Implantable blood flow sensors – Blood flow sensors are used by medical professionals to monitor trends or changes in blood-flow volumes that can contribute to heatstroke, dehydration and other serious conditions. Connected sensors by companies like Kyocera alert users and medical professionals when unusual blood flow patterns occur through integration with smartphones or mHealth applications.

6. Smart hospital beds – Whether hospitalized for a few hours or a few weeks, hospital beds play an imperative role in the recovery and pain management of a patient. New technology allows medical staff to closely monitor patients through connected hospital beds that provide critical data regarding vital signs, sleep patterns, and more. Through touch-free intelligent and cloud connected monitoring platforms, smart beds present around-the-clock data that can be used to make important decisions regarding patient care.

7. Prosthetic devices – By implementing bluetooth technology into prosthetics, owners can take control of their devices and allow for more seamless operation and use. Today, bluetooth technology is being used in prosthetics to increase communication between multiple devices, encouraging a more natural experience. It is also being used to increase user ease by making the necessary adjustments for comfortable wear.