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FBI Issues Cybersecurity Warning about Medical Devices

September 17, 2015
by Heather Landi
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Web-connected medical devices, such as wireless heart monitors and insulin dispensers, pose a cybersecurity risk and steps need to be taken to protect these devices from cyber threats, according to a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) public service announcement.

The FBI public service announcement highlighted cybersecuritys risks to Internet of Things (IoT) devices in general, but as information security is an ongoing concern for healthcare organizations, there has been an increasnig focus on Internet-enabled or wireless medical devices.

“Deficient security capabilities and difficulties for patching vulnerabilities in these devices, as well as a lack of consumer security awareness, provide cyber actors with opportunities to exploit these devices,” the FBI statement reads. “Criminals can use these opportunities to remotely facilitate attacks on other systems, send malicious and spam e-mails, steal personal information or interfere with physical safety.”

The service announcement stated that unsecured or weakly secured devices provide opportunities for cyber criminals to intrude upon private networks and gain access to other devices and information attached to these networks. Devices with default passwords or open Wi-Fi connections are an easy target for cyber actors to exploit.

As an example, the FBI statement outlined how, once criminals have breached devices, they have access to any personal or medical information stored on the devices and can possibly change the coding controlling the dispensing of medicines or health data collection. These devices may be at risk if they are capable of long-range connectivity, according to the statement.

The FBI gave a number of recommendations for protecting against cyber attacks, such as isolated IoT devices on their own protected networks, disabling Universal Plug and Play protocol (UPnP) on routers, purchasing IoT devices from manufacturers with a track record of provding secure devices and updating devices with security patches.

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