You have passwords for your smart phone and laptop, your bank account, your patient records through your doctor’s office, and even (frustratingly) your local gym.
But have you thought about a password for your pacemaker or insulin pump?
Medical implants, like other computer systems, can be vulnerable to security breaches, potentially impacting the safety and effectiveness of the device. Millions of people using implants today are becoming increasingly vulnerable to a cyber hack. With the lives of patients on the line, the use of implants – from pacemakers to cochlear hearing implants – is not something that should be taken lightly.
Mark Wood, President of LifeScienceRisk, a managing general underwriter specializing in generic and brand pharmaceuticals, invasive medical devices and nutritional supplements, explains that despite the growing threat, this risk is not currently among his greatest concerns:
“We are talking about something that certainly is possible, but it’s not an exposure that keeps me up at night as an underwriter.”
Addressing cyber security threats can be challenging. Because these threats cannot be eliminated completely, manufacturers, hospitals and facilities must work to manage them. Hospitals and health care facilities should evaluate their network security and take the necessary precautions to protect their internal systems to help reduce this type of risk.
“In 2016, we will see new tools used to deliver healthcare, such as virtual doctors’ offices and alternative unique medical treatment technologies that will dramatically change how healthcare is delivered,” says Wood.
All of these factors could increase the threat of a medical implant or device security breach. As with any emerging risk, cyber security surrounding these implants and devices must be monitored closely. With technology advancing rapidly and continued healthcare expansion, hackers will find new ways around security measures implemented as a prevention effort. Which means cyber threats to a medical implant could quickly advance from a hypothetical scenario to a reality.