Cyber attacks on medical devices are a possibility

March 12, 2015

Early this week,I was able to join a group of gynecologists where we watched live laparoscopic surgeries by two endoscopic surgeons from Western Europe during a workshop where I was tasked to present a paper on how Cyber Attacks on medical devices remains a possibility. In my presentation which I cannot make public due to contractual reasons, I demonstrated how medical devices and hospital networks are vulnerable and how potential cyber attacks can cripple operations and could cost lives as well. In one case, I showed how defibrillators and other implanted devices are connected to networks that are vulnerable to crackers.I also showed how if a robotic surgery system is maliciously re-calibrated in even a slight manner for surgeries, the consequences will be fatal and irreversible. Mainstream cyber crime war has largely concentrated on economic and security domains but the next growth frontier for criminals will include medical device manufacturers, medical device user facilities, hospitals, health care technical staff and bio-medical engineers.

Participants of the workshop watched two live surgeries performed for various gynecological related diseases.The main aim was to stimulate the creation of basic and applied work in the field of gynecologic endoscopy, which helps understand the science and to master the art of endoscopic surgery.I participated as an expert coder who is involved in a robotic surgery project in Africa.The workshop was very helpful to me as a coder and despite the great advances made in endoscopic surgery in gynecology, in Africa many gynecologists prefer to perform surgery by traditional laparotomy. In view of this, the scientific team in Europe has put in place a wonderful programme to cater for a wider audience including the novices as well as the experts in endoscopic surgery.I did also experience various scientific and educational activities such as single incision surgery and robotic surgery.The Endoscopy is a procedure that uses specialized tools to view and operate on the internal organs and vessels of one’s body.I was impressed how it allows surgeons to view problems within the body without having to make large incisions.

My role of making aware participants of cybersecurity vulnerabilities and incidents that could directly impact medical devices or hospital network operations and in turn affect their profession,I recommended that medical experts make it a priority to advise device manufacturers and health care facilities on how to take steps that assure that appropriate safeguards are in place to reduce the risk of failure networked medical procedures due to cyberattack.In conclusion, I demonstrated how using a medical devices purchased from a medial supplier could be compromised by the introduction of malware into the equipment or unauthorized access to configuration settings in medical devices and hospital networks.The list of threats to medical industry are growing by the day and although there are no known patient injuries or deaths associated with such incidents, we are not far away.The buck stops with manufacturers who should be able to identifying risks and hazards associated with their medical devices and there’s need to limit unauthorized device access.

Contador Harrison