Minimizing Vulnerabilities in IoT Medical Devices: Best Practices for Secure Healthcare

The healthcare industry increasingly relies on IoT medical devices for patient care and diagnosis, making organizations more susceptible to cyber threats. Cybersecurity firm Emsisoft estimates that 290 hospitals were affected by ransomware attacks in 2022, with the number potentially being much higher.

The volume of connected medical devices presents an ever-growing vulnerability that must get addressed. While remediating or replacing vulnerable medical devices might be the ideal solution, it is not always possible. So how can organizations minimize the risks associated with these devices?

This blog will discuss risk mitigation strategies and provide recommendations on how to deploy them effectively. With proper implementation, your organization can reduce the impacts of a breach or attack on its connected medical devices. 

Understanding the Risks of IoT Medical Devices

The potential consequences of an attack against IoT medical devices can be catastrophic. Data breaches often lead to significant financial losses and reputational damage.

Patient safety is also at risk due to IoT medical device vulnerabilities in healthcare, as malefactors may gain access to sensitive medical data or even leverage devices to manipulate treatment plans. An October 2022 data breach affecting the Lake Charles Memorial Health System in Louisana gave hackers access to 270,000 patient files. The files included sensitive data such as medical diagnoses and social security numbers.

Remediating or replacing at-risk devices is the first-line defense in healthcare IoT security, but organizations often face significant challenges when attempting to do so. Compatibility issues can arise due to different device models, while regulatory compliance may restrict the adoption of newer technologies.

Best Practices for Minimizing Risks in Healthcare IoT Devices

Risk management can protect your organization from cyberattacks. Tactics include:

  • Vulnerability assessments and threat modeling: Vulnerability assessments identify weaknesses in medical device security while threat modeling looks at how an attacker might exploit these weaknesses. Assessments and threat modeling allow organizations to create a comprehensive security plan that addresses potential risks.
  • Penetration testing: Penetration tests simulate attacks from malicious actors. Organizations can then take steps to minimize the impact of any vulnerabilities or weaknesses identified in the test.
  • Implementing patch management and software updates:  Patch management involves regularly installing security patches to protect against known vulnerabilities.
  • Segmenting networks and devices: By dividing networks and devices into smaller, more manageable segments, organizations can isolate and contain any security incidents that occur, minimizing the damage caused by a potential breach.
  • Continuous monitoring and updating: Regular monitoring and updating help ensure that connected medical devices are running the latest security patches and software. This enhanced security minimizes the potential for data breaches or malicious attacks.

These measures work with IoT medical device for healthcare security controls like data encryption, restricting access to networks and devices, and enforcing secure communication protocols. Encryption and access control help protect data from unauthorized users. Secure communication protocols minimize the chances of malware infections.

You can boost your hospital’s IT security by deploying firewalls and creating an incident response plan that outlines the steps to take in the event of an attack.

Minimizing Healthcare IoT Vulnerabilities in Practice

As a practical example, let’s look at how a healthcare organization might implement the best practices mentioned above to protect IoT medical devices.

If a device transfers data via FTP, a protocol widely considered insecure, additional security measures are required to keep the data safe. 

One way to provide extra protection would be to build a policy to monitor the devices using the insecure service and search for signs that indicate unauthorized access or data exfiltration, such as communication with endpoints that are not normally used for FTP. This plan could reduce costs as the organization would then be able to detect potential security incidents quickly and take action before any damage occurs.

Remediate Vulnerable Medical Devices Where Possible

Strategies like increased monitoring can be an extremely effective way to secure IoT medical devices, but there are other steps to take first.

Learn how to remediate cyber risk in your medical devices by downloading our step-by-step guide now.

Here’s a brief breakdown of all eight steps:

  • Step 1: Patching: The most crucial security measure is to keep your devices up-to-date with the latest patches.
  • Step 2: MacroSegmentation: Segmentation divides networks into subnets, making it harder for attackers to gain access.
  • Step 3: Targeted Segmentation: This approach divides networks into even smaller subnets based on risk, further limiting the scope of an attack.
  • Step 4: Configuration Changes (Device Hardening): Establishing new configurations and disabling unnecessary services can reduce potential attack surfaces.
  • Step 5: Micro-Segmentation: Micro-segmentation limits communication between devices to only necessary ports and protocols by creating virtual zones or subnets for every affected device.
  • Step 6: Upgrade or Replace: Determine whether certain vulnerable devices can be upgraded or replaced.
  • Step 7: Accept the Risk: When a device can’t be remediated, it’s essential to document the risk and develop a management plan.
  • Step 8: Build a Holistic IoMT Security Program:  A comprehensive security program should include staff training, regular vulnerability scans, and more.

Interested in going deeper into this topic? Don’t miss out on the insights in the Cybersecurity IoMT Webinar Series, where Sr. Director of Solutions Engineering, Luke Smith, dives into these 8 Steps further!  Watch it on demand now.

Future-proof your IoT Medical Device Security Practices

Healthcare organizations must ensure that connected medical devices are secure and compliant with industry standards. As the IoT market continues evolving, staying current is essential.

To future-proof your organization’s IoT security, there are deliberate steps you can pursue. For example, software development processes like compatibility testing make a difference. Investing in training for your team has an effect as well. A well-trained team can monitor device performance, detect anomalies and take action when needed.

Mitigate Medical Device Cyber Risk with Asimily

Asimily’s comprehensive and secure IoMT risk remediation platform helps healthcare organizations mitigate cyber risk. With Asimily, users can quickly identify, prioritize, and remediate medical device vulnerabilities.

Our solution provides healthcare organizations with a holistic view of their IoT medical device ecosystem. Asimily allows you to easily manage your IoT medical devices while simplifying the complexity of device security.

Our features include a detailed inventory that lists all connected medical devices, anomaly identification and incident response capabilities that can detect malicious behavior and streamlined security policies with reporting capabilities to show leadership the impact of their risk reduction efforts.

Schedule a consultation with an Asimily expert to see how you can defend your hospital systems against ransomware and malware attacks with our leading risk management platform for the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT).

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