Security Magazine

Unsecured Medical Equipment Provides Wider Attack Base

The Internet of Things is an unavoidable part of network topology today, but the connectivity of devices leaves enterprises open for cyber attacks.

March 1, 2014

The Internet of Things is an unavoidable part of network topology today, but the connectivity of devices – not just laptops but medical equipment, printers and surveillance cameras – leaves enterprises open for cyber attacks.

According to the Ponemon Institute, 92 percent of medical institutions say their organizations have been victims of cyber attacks. Of the 49,917 unique incidents of malicious nature discovered by Norse for the SANS Healthcare Cyberthreat Report, seven percent of traffic came from radiology imaging software, another seven percent from video conferencing systems, and three percent from digital video systems, most likely used for consult and remote procedures.

Eight percent of malicious traffic was emitted through a Web-based call center website, and the data collected also showed indications of a compromised personal health record system, which would not be certified under the U.S. standards nor regulated by HIPAA or HITECH, leaving consumers with the brunt of the costs. Ponemon estimated in 2013 that nearly 2 million Americans will spend more than $12 billion out of pocket this year to deal with the consequences of compromised medical or insurance files. The effect to enterprises could be more difficult to
predict, but the loss of reputation and business would take its toll.

The problem with these systems is not necessarily their connectivity, but awareness of their inherent threats. According to Sam Glines, CEO of Norse, awareness can lead to some very simple fixes to reduce the attack surface: change passwords on devices (many of the affected devices the report’s research uncovered were still operating with the default admin password), keep inventories of what assets could be compromised and check them often, secure Internet-connected devices like laptops, and even do phishing testing on employees to focus education efforts.

In addition, with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the opening of the Healthcare Marketplace, there is more healthcare data available to malicious actors than ever. According to Glines, a credit card number might sell for $0.50 or $1 on the black market, but a single healthcare record is a much more profitable data target – one record can sell for $60-70.

“CSOs should aim for a reduction in attack surface, as better-protected equipment is less likely to be used as a launch point for a larger attack,” says Glines. “You’re enabling criminals if your equipment is unsecured.”

“It’s only going to become a bigger issue as more devices come online,” he adds.