Particularly in recent years, as healthcare developments have taken center stage, IoT in healthcare has become a growing and critical market. This trajectory is likely to continue, with research revealing that the global healthcare IoT market is expected to reach $534.3 billion by 2025. Unfortunately, despite its many benefits, growing IoT also creates a larger attack surface for cybercriminals to target, leading to increased risks and security attacks.
In 2021, the healthcare industry was the industry to experience the most significant increase in IoT attacks. With the development of IoT in the industry, this trend shows no signs of slowing down. Therefore, it’s essential to remain aware of the risks of technological development and take the necessary steps to protect against them.
How IoT is used in healthcare
IoT is a highly versatile concept with many applications throughout the healthcare industry. One of the earliest and most important applications of IoT technology in healthcare is digital healthcare, such as the development of electronic healthcare records (EHRs) that replace the multiple systems hospitals used to fill functions such as recording and transmitting patient information. Other technology, such as portals, let patients play an active role in their healthcare, allowing them to access their medical records and download forms through an interconnected web of devices.
These examples are far from the only uses of IoT in the healthcare industry, and advances such as home equipment and interconnected devices have made healthcare more flexible and accessible than ever. More creative applications for IoT continue to emerge in the healthcare industry, such as the case of remote surgeries. The market will continue to grow, and protecting existing technology will be increasingly critical.
The benefits of cellular IoT for healthcare
Many modern healthcare applications can be powered by cellular IoT technologies such as NB-IoT and 5G. For instance, 5G is particularly suitable to power many devices and offers low latency, meaning it can transmit data faster. This technology can be highly effective for wearable sensors such as heart monitors. These can transfer information directly from patients’ devices to doctors.
Similarly, NB-IoT opens up many doors for healthcare. NB-IoT is part of the LPWAN technologies specifically designed for IoT use cases. It has a wide range, low bandwidth, and long battery life, making it ideal for remote monitoring. Furthermore, because it is integrated into 5G standards, you can access this technology wherever cellular coverage is available.
Challenges of IoT Security in Healthcare
As with all technological evolutions, the evolution of IoT in healthcare corresponds with the growth of cyberattacks. The healthcare sector has always been a popular target for attackers, possibly due to the wealth of personal information it contains and the high-stakes nature of the industry.
Data breaches and cyberattacks have been steadily rising in healthcare for several years. The pandemic made it worse, with attacks doubling in 2020. The number of cyberattacks targeting the healthcare sector peaked in 2021, reaching the highest recorded number and affecting over 45 million people.
A successful attack in the healthcare industry can have more severe ramifications than any other industry. Recent episodes have resulted in severe healthcare setbacks, such as a November 2020 attack that resulted in the University of Vermont Health Network shutting down chemotherapy and mammogram services. The combined dangers of increasing risk and high stakes make it essential to understand the industry’s risks and how severe potential consequences can be. Some of the most significant threats to IoT in the healthcare industry today include:
Most IoT devices in the healthcare sector rely on public cloud infrastructures and multi-tenant environments. Unfortunately, multi-tenant infrastructure makes it easier for external people to gain unauthorized access to shared platforms or data belonging to other tenants. Security measures must be specifically designed to prevent unauthorized users from accessing other tenants’ data, intentionally or accidentally stumbling on it.
Device hijacking, or ‘medjacking,’ refers to cybercriminals forcefully taking control of medical devices. Criminals use this method to access patient data or infect devices with harmful malware. In some cases, attackers can even use this to sabotage devices and directly harm patients.
Data ownership issues
The ownership of IoT data is still an intensely debated issue. Although it’s easy for users to assume that the data collected from wearables belongs to them, its ownership depends on the legislation of the state or country they reside in. The same principle applies to users’ location information; users may want to keep it private, but it’s often shared with third parties without their knowledge.
Distributed denial of service (DDoS) is a form of a cyberattack when criminals cause the target’s system to become overwhelmed by a large wave of internet traffic. DDoS attacks have the effect of disrupting operations and can even render medical services unavailable.
Disclosure of Personal Health Information (PHI)
PHI is generally only accessible to medical professionals directly involved in a patient’s care or the primary caregivers assisting the patient. Still, hackers find ways to access this information as devices grow more connected. As a result of a PHI breach, the data may be copied, modified, or corrupted by cyber criminals.
8 Essentials for Healthcare IoT Security
In medicine, ensuring all devices operate smoothly and protecting patients’ privacy are core values, and upholding these values includes implementing practices that help defend IoT devices, even as attacks grow increasingly complex.
There are some best practices you can use to enhance your IoT security:
1. Ensure complete visibility
IoT environments host a wide range of workstations, devices, sensors, and more in the healthcare industry. Keeping track of an intricate web of devices and systems is complex, as different types of devices will be on different network segments. In healthcare, organizations must maintain regular and consistent data monitoring over their network, regardless of how large and widespread it may be. Complete visibility is critical, and this includes monitoring devices. Any minor vulnerability in machines or networks can act as a door to hackers, giving them access to the rest of your network. Although this is time-consuming, monitoring platforms that centralize all device monitoring and access needs into one platform can help streamline the process.
2. Network segmentation
Network segmentation is a security technique where an administrator divides the organization’s network into subnets and then sets specific rules for each subnet. This system allows administrators to customize protection for each subnet and prevents hackers from accessing your entire network by hacking one subset. Additionally, subnets enable administrators to limit even legitimate access to the network, reducing access to a limited number of people and for specific business needs.
3. Select a connectivity technology that provides both security and coverage
Some network technologies offer a wide range of opportunities for innovation in healthcare. Think of 5G, for instance. 5G has low latency and high bandwidth, enabling real-time information delivery to paramedics or doctors, such as patient data or even live HD videos. Because it is a safe and reliable technology, healthcare providers can use it to enhance patient communications.
4. Have strong authentication
While it may seem redundant, implementing complex authentication procedures is critical to protect your network from data theft and potential illegitimate intrusion. Illegitimate intrusion doesn’t only come from cyber criminals. Access attempts can come from within your organization too. Still, effective authentication measures can help prevent unwanted access by thoroughly verifying each user’s identity and the legitimacy of their access request before granting access to the device or network.
5. Adopt context-based security
Protecting your network entails deeply understanding all its devices and users. Context-based security requires taking the broader picture of the network into account and analyzing the origin of each access request. It involves asking who wants access, where they request access, and what they want the permit for. While this may sound like a drawn-out process, these details often reveal the first red flags warning of suspicious behavior, allowing organizations to act early and prevent attacks.
6. Make use of third-party security tools
Many of the best practices required to ensure top-notch IoT security require huge investments of time and effort. When it comes to security, organizations can’t take the risk of cutting corners, particularly in the healthcare industry. These two factors make maintaining and securing intricate networks of connected devices extremely challenging. Fortunately, third-party security tools such as FirstPoint provide ready-made and easy-to-use IoT connectivity management platforms. FirstPoint streamlines IoT management-related processes and is flexible to any use case, making it easily adjustable to meet the healthcare industry’s needs. The tool can enhance your IoT security without making additional demands on your resources.
7. Change default credentials and passwords
It may seem like an obvious security measure, but IoT devices and machines often come with existing default passwords and credentials. Changing these for each device is highly time-consuming, but skipping this step could result in catastrophic breaches. This step is foundational and critical to strengthening your IoT security despite its simplicity.
8. Real-time threat Intelligence
Time is of the essence to mitigate cyber-attacks. Identifying attacks early can allow organizations to stop attacks in their tracks before they can impact operations or compromise devices. Gathering real-time intelligence on your network’s security can help spot the identifying marks of an attack, such as suspicious behavior, allowing you to react instantly. Additionally, the real-time insights you gather can help you identify your network’s common trends and patterns, giving you data that can be used to spot attacks in the future.
Protecting your patients
In healthcare, the patient’s well-being is a top priority, and this principle extends to data security. Investing in robust security measures and following the above practices can save lives. Utilizing IoT management tools such as FirstPoint ensures you can implement strong security measures with minimal time and human resource investment, allowing you to protect your patients’ health and personal information.