As Internet of Things devices become more ingenious, monitoring everything from our heart rate to the electricity grid, there is an increased risk that hacking them might become very tempting.
Earlier this year I posted a blog about IoT devices preparing to enter the human body, as a way to diagnose and even treat internal health issues. Thinking about it at the time, I realized that device security could well be an issue; like in Homeland where an assassination took place by hacking a guy’s pacemaker.
Recent research from McAfee’s Advanced Threat Research team confirmed my worst fears. McAfee’s team showed that it is possible to hack into a patient monitor and central monitoring station and modify a patient’s vital signs in real time. Of course, as McAfee said, any modifications made to patient data would need to be believable enough for medical professionals to alter treatments.
Obviously this proves my point. If someone can hack into your vital signs and change them to provoke the wrong treatment, then surely they could hack into your pacemaker or insulin pump. Medical IoT implants are fast becoming a trend; they can detect disease, manage pain, or even decode signals from the brain and relay them to other parts of the body to possibly cure paralysis. That they might be vulnerable to an outside attack is quite scary.
What is the answer? McAfee said: “Both product vendors and medical facilities can take measures to drastically reduce the threat of this type of attack. Vendors can encrypt network traffic between the devices and add authentication. These two steps would drastically increase the difficulty of this type of attack.”
Hacking is a serious issue, but hacking into medical devices takes it to a new level – a level that can cost lives. The only way to prevent that is stop the finger-pointing at the device manufacturers, making sure that all of the chain works together in an orchestrated fashion.
What is probably needed in this particular industry is to increase awareness that the technology behind the solutions is as important as the solutions themselves.