WannaCry highlights worst nightmare in medical device security

Among the many lessons that will come out of the massive cyberattack might be a rethink of common patching practices.
By Tom Sullivan and Mike Miliard
03:17 PM
hospital heart monitor WannaCry medical device security

SAN FRANCISCO — The sprawling WannaCry ransomware attacks have healthcare CIOs and infosec professionals more concerned about device security than ever.

Medical devices are incredibly challenging for providers to adequately secure them and all too easy for hackers to find them.

“There's a lot of talk in healthcare about device security. Discussions about what we're comfortable pushing as endpoint security and what we're unable to do – because certainly, we don't want to create any harm to patients,” said Tressa Springman, CIO of LifeBridge Health. “Many of these devices and the vendors who manage them, it's very hard to go direct on patching and adding security.”

[Also: The biggest healthcare breaches of 2017 (so far)]

On the hacker side, pinpointing connected medical devices is as easy as running a Google search. Instead of tapping one of the big search engines like Bing, Yahoo or Google, the tool of choice is Shodan. Shodan enables them to find medical devices and determine whether they can get in, or not.


“None of this is rocket science. Pretty much anybody can do this,” CynergisTek CEO Mac McMillan said. “This is how simple it is for the bad guys to find the devices out there.”

Patching won’t solve all security problems or plug every hole that ransomware such as WannaCry as well as other exploits might leverage – but this new attack calls to light just how important it is.

“Literally the most aggressive mitigation is to make sure you're patching,” Springman added.

Richard Staynings, principal, cybersecurity healthcare leader at Cisco’s Security unit made an optimistic prediction: “This is going to cause a paradigm shift, at least for patching.” 

  Learn more about keeping your data safe.  Webinar: Preventing and Dealing with Ransomware Attacks June 15, 2017.  Register here.

Twitter: SullyHIT
Email the writer: tom.sullivan@himssmedia.com

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
Email the writer: mike.miliard@himssmedia.com

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