Healthcare IoT Security: Let’s Talk About Risks, Issues, and Best Practices

by Gavin Philip
Healthcare iot security

Tech’s influence in the healthcare industry cannot be ignored. There is plenty of innovation fueled by the latest technologies, like IoT, AI, and data analytics. The goal is to create better systems that help in improving healthcare delivery.

For example, look at the latest fitness watches that can track calories, measure heart rate, and analyze the data to help people improve their wellness and fitness. You may also have seen continuous glucose monitors used to measure how pro athletes react to different training intensities.

However, our focus in this article will be on healthcare IoT security: risks, issues, and best practices.

Common Risks

Herein, we discuss common risks associated with healthcare IoT security and how they can be mitigated.

Data Breaches

This is one of the most crucial issues in healthcare IoT security. Any device on the internet is at risk of getting attacked by hackers. They often look for and attack weak points in the system design. The goal is to get access to confidential patient data, which can fetch a fortune on the dark web.

Data breaches can occur due to poor authentication procedures, outdated encryption processes, and using public networks for data transmission. Some off-the-shelf healthcare apps and devices also come with malware, allowing unauthorized access to patient data by unwanted people.

Denial-of-Service Attacks

Many institutions have been victims of denial-of-service attacks from hackers. During such attacks, the goal is to make a resource or machine in the network inaccessible to the users. Attackers do so by flooding in many requests back-to-back, overwhelming the server or network.

These attacks can be more frustrating if the attackers target multiple resources or devices, which is known as a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack. Doctors and patients may struggle to communicate when the attack is ongoing. Some automated services can also be rendered useless, putting more pressure on the staff.

Unauthorized Access

Using weak authentication systems can make healthcare IoT devices vulnerable to hackers. Hackers can stage man-in-the-middle attacks if the network is public and steal login details from authorized staff. They can use the details to gain entry and run malicious activities.

Besides stealing patient data, they can also manipulate records or deploy ransomware in the system. They can also tamper with the settings in the healthcare IoT devices. The effects can be harmful if they alter data collection or disable specific functions.  

Issues in Healthcare IoT Security

Security risks are one problem that healthcare IoT developers and users face. However, other massive issues also require attention.

Lack of Global Standards

There is no global standardization regulating healthcare IoT devices. Countries have different laws on data privacy and security. There is also the issue of incompatibility between devices from various manufacturers.

This challenge makes it difficult for developers to create a device providing data integration and interoperability. The lack of global standardization makes managing security risks more challenging.

Healthcare IoT is Expensive

Designing and building healthcare IoT devices is expensive. There is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes from research to prototype testing. Managing the resources in the network also requires a lot of money to take care of operation expenses.

You have to consider training healthcare professionals on how to use the system. Regular security updates and patches can be expensive if you want the network and devices to be secure. This can sometimes make investors in the healthcare business shy away from adopting healthcare IoT technology.

What Are Some Best Practices?

The many challenges and issues in healthcare IoT security don’t mean it is all gloom. Several proactive measures for risk mitigation will ensure the secure integration of IoT devices.

Better Authentication

Login and signup are some of the most targeted areas by hackers. Building a healthcare IoT system with bare minimum authentication is risky. Ensure that all access points have a two-factor authentication system.

Two-factor authentication systems have extra verification steps beyond the basic username, email, and password. You can send an OTP (a one-time password) to the user’s phone every time they need to log into their device.

Data Encryption

Sending data over a public network in its raw form is a security risk. Every time a hacker stages a man-in-the-middle attack, they will read data sent to and from the IoT devices. Instead, use modern data encryption protocols when sending data through the network.

Encryption protocols make the data unreadable if it falls into the hands of a hacker. A decent encryption standard like AES-256 offers a robust layer of protection. Also, look for the latest encryption protocols and update them whenever necessary.

Updates and Patches

Building a foolproof system is next to impossible. However, outdated and deprecated technologies don’t get security upgrades and patches. Ensure that your system is updated to get the latest security features.

Still on the same topic, prioritize secure coding practices when building the system. Don’t forget to test the system before deployment. This will help you identify weak or vulnerable points that require addressing.

Regular User Training

Social engineering is one technique that hackers use to gain access to robust healthcare IoT systems. Don’t forget to train users on best practices and what to do if their accounts get hacked. Create authorization levels to limit what users can see when they log into their accounts.

For example, low-level users shouldn’t have admin access to the device or system. This will minimize the potential damage caused by compromised user accounts.

Final Thoughts

Healthcare IoT devices are making service delivery more efficient. However, building a secure IoT system has its share of challenges. Security threats are the biggest challenge when building IoT devices. However, there are many ways to mitigate threats and protect user data.

The other debate is about off-the-shelf systems vs. tailor-made solutions. Both options have their pros and cons. However, tailor-made solutions are better and more secure since you are in charge of the process and code.

Always consult an expert before deciding which path to take when investing in healthcare IoT systems.

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