Symantec's Healthcare Expert: Substantial Risk for Cyber Attack on Medical Devices

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Although there has not yet been a planned cyber attack on medical devices, the “collateral damage” of viruses has infected the medical community, according to Axel Wirth, healthcare solutions architect at Symantec.

During his June 25 presentation at the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation Conference & Expo, Wirth highlighted the growing concern of cyber crime and its potential impacts on medical networks and networked medical devices, CMIO reported.

Considering that highly complex viruses can worm their way into medical device system and the “exponentially increasing” number of viruses unleashed on the Internet annually, medical equipment are at a significant risk for cyber attacks.

“For example, defibrillators or implantable pacemakers, their code can be broken,” he said. “They can be reprogrammed and made to respond improperly. There are certainly some possible scary scenarios.”

Wirth also spoke about how cyber crooks’ motivations had changed over the years: from college students who wanted notoriety for their attacks, to modern-day perpetrators seeking profits by stealing personal data.

“This is a new ballgame; these are not college kids anymore,” he said. “There is money and political motivation behind it. With every new year, we see more viruses than the total number in the previous year.”

With the healthcare sector being the leading industry in terms of data breaches, Wirth recommended that healthcare professionals be aware of the risks and use appropriate methods to manage security, and advocated white listing for single-purpose devices.

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