Supply Chain and IoT Risks Pose Healthcare Cybersecurity Challenges, Report Reveals

Healthcare cybersecurity is under threat. According to Cybersecurity Ventures, healthcare enterprises will spend more than $65 billion on security products and services over the next five years.

Increased spending may not have the intended outcome, however. New research from Trend Micro and the Health Information Trust Alliance (HITRUST) suggested that while familiar attacks such as ransomware plague healthcare, Internet of Things (IoT) issues and supply chain security breaches could pose even bigger risks.

A Hard Look at Supply Chain Risks in Healthcare

As noted by Dark Reading, supply chain risks to healthcare aren’t new. The problem is that recent attack vectors such as WannaCry have exposed the vulnerability of traditional supply chain structures. As a result, healthcare agencies need to take a hard look at the security posture of supply chain vendors, third-party providers and cloud services to determine whether they are inadvertently exposing data to attacks.

Consider medical device manufacturers: If device hardware or software is tampered with during the production process, healthcare companies have no way to know their data is at risk. Devices might spend months or years on corporate networks before they’re exploited.

According to the Trend Micro report, supply chain risk areas include the following:

  • Distribution centers — What processes are in place to prevent tampering with products? Who has access prior to and during distribution?
  • Suppliers — What type of cybersecurity measures (if any) are in place across the supplier’s network?
  • Mobile health app developers — What best practices are in place to ensure security by design? Do mobile health apps leverage open source code with known vulnerabilities?
  • Outdated firmware — Mobile medical devices may contain firmware that can’t be updated or offers an easy way in for cybercriminals, such as stock login credentials.

Companies must adopt a “risk-based vendor management program under a comprehensive enterprise risk management/governance framework” to help minimize supply chain threats to healthcare cybersecurity, the Trend Micro report noted. A good starting point is the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST)’s “Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity,” which now includes an updated section on managing supply chain security.

Internet of Targets

While supply chain risks have become a top healthcare security concern, IoT issues present a similar set of risks. The Trend Micro research found that a “surprisingly high number” of connected medical systems were discoverable by IoT scanning tool Shodan and subject to potential compromise.

For example, medical imaging devices using the Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine (DICOM) standard help drive interaccessibility across clinics and hospitals. But the report found 428 DICOM servers exposed across the U.S. that could contain confidential scans, medical records and patients’ personal data.

Often, these devices are exposed accidentally. The Trend Micro report noted that businesses may incorrectly configure their infrastructure, make internet connectivity a requirement for device functionality or enable remote access for troubleshooting, all of which provide paths for attackers to compromise the network.

Improving Healthcare Cybersecurity

Healthcare enterprises must develop new policies to ensure that devices pass basic security checks, such as patched firmware and configurable login/password data, before being implemented. In addition, agencies must apply similar standards to vendors by asking for demonstrable proof that devices were designed with security in mind rather than as an afterthought.

Healthcare supply chains have become a critical threat to cybersecurity, even as emerging IoT networks boost overall risk. Improving security means adopting NIST-inspired supply chain best practices and developing new security policies to address IoT threats.

Douglas Bonderud

Freelance Writer

A freelance writer for three years, Doug Bonderud is a Western Canadian with expertise in the fields of technology and...