Connected health devices pose increasing cyber threats, experts warn

The use of connected health devices that are susceptible to hacking could have significant consequences on patient safety, according to new research from the Royal Academy of Engineering.

[London, UK] The increasing number of connected health devices is posing new cybersecurity challenges that need to be addressed, the Royal Academy of Engineering has said.

In two reports published this week, security experts warn that the potential to hack medical devices, including pacemakers and MRI scanners, could have significant consequences on patient safety.

They emphasise that one of the main challenges for the industry now will be designing ‘trustworthy, regulated products that work to medical standards and have good cybersecurity, but at the speed, efficiency and price of consumer products’.

Devices that are linked up to computer networks or the internet, such as wearable health monitors, could be used to hack entire systems, they cautioned.

Dan Lyon, Principal Consultant at Synopsys, explained: 

"This is another example of recognizing the importance of security, as it plays a role in maintaining the safety and effectiveness of medical devices.

“Medical devices suffer from long product development cycles that can make them slow to react to new cybersecurity threats, especially if things like cybersecurity were not thought about at all.”

The reports warn that the government needs to consider whether regulation is ‘fit for purpose’ to ensure systems are prepared to deal with increasing cyber threats and tech advancements. 

Professor Nick Jennings CB FREng, Vice Provost at Imperial College London and Lead Author of the Cyber safety and resilience report, said:

“The reports we are publishing today identify some of the measures needed to strengthen the safety and resilience of all connected systems, particularly the critical infrastructure on which much of our society now depends.

“We cannot totally avoid failures or attacks, but we can design systems that are highly resilient and will recover quickly.”

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