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How Secure are Health Devices?

by | Jan 8, 2018 | Healthcare, Technology |

How Secure are Health Devices?

by | Jan 8, 2018 | Healthcare, Technology |

According to cybersecurity executive, Rusty Carter, not very.

Where has all this anxiety come from? Is it really something we should be concerned about in the moves to advance healthcare. Especially, at a time when healthcare budgets are shrinking, and technology is being championed to fill the funding gap?



Recently, the NHS security was tested when the global WannaCry Ransomware outbreak hit UK hospitals. At least 1220 pieces of diagnostic equipment had to be disconnected to stop it spreading further. Part of the problem is that these devices were not designed to be used in networked environments, which makes them vulnerable to attack.

What Makes these Health Devices so Insecure?

Security wasn’t the main concern when devices are being built. Take pacemakers, for example. No one thought that security was an issue. The main driving factor in the development of such products is quality of care. Whilst there are no reports of such implanted personal devices being targeted, the very fact that they are vulnerable must surely give us cause for concern.

So, what is the solution? Well, the onis is on the digital health industry as a whole to put cybersecurity at the forefront when building new systems and devices which might be reverse engineered, or hacked. The NHS recently announced a £20m investment to enlist a cybersecurity firm to plug the holes in it’s defences. Carter suggests a white hat scheme similar to those run by Google and Microsoft, wherin rewards are given to ‘noble’ hackers who find flaws in security systems.

What About Wearable Health Devices?


It’s a known security issue with most wearables, that they leak information over Bluetooth. The arguments against this being a big issue are that it’s pretty trick to get the data, and it’s not all that useful. This may hold true for new wearable health tech too, but is the data they hold really so innocuous? I’m sure the NHS WannaCry attack wasn’t necessarily meant to cause healthcare disruption, but it did. What if someone managed to hack someones meds tracker and prompted them to overdose. It’s unlikely, but I’m a big believer in Murphy’s Law – “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.”


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