FDA advises cyber security for devices

FDA advises cyber security for devices

In a June 13 safety communication, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned medical device manufacturers, hospitals, medical device user facilities, healthcare IT and procurement staff, and biomedical engineers to put safeguards in place to reduce the risk of cyber attack.

The FDA said cyber attacks could be initiated by the introduction of malware into medical equipment or unauthorized access to configuration settings in medical devices and hospital networks.

“Many medical devices contain configurable embedded computer systems that can be vulnerable to cybersecurity breaches,” FDA officials wrote. “In addition, as medical devices are increasingly interconnected via the Internet, hospital networks, other medical device and smartphones, there is an increased risk of cybersecurity breaches, which could affect how a medical device operates.”

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According to the FDA, the government has become aware of cybersecurity vulnerabilities and incidents that could directly impact medical devices or health facility network operations, including:

  • Network-connected/configured medical devices infected or disabled by malware;
  • The presence of malware on hospital computers, smartphones and tablets, targeting mobile devices using wireless technology to access patient data, monitoring systems and implanted patient devices;
  • Uncontrolled distribution of passwords, disabled passwords, hard-coded passwords for software intended for privileged device access (e.g., to administrative, technical and maintenance personnel);
  • Failure to provide timely security software updates and patches to medical devices and networks and to address related vulnerabilities in older medical device models (legacy devices); and
  • Security vulnerabilities in off-the-shelf software designed to prevent unauthorized device or network access, such as plain-text or no authentication, hard-coded passwords, documented service accounts in service manuals, and poor coding/SQL injection.

The agency said it is not aware of any patient injuries or deaths associated with such incidents nor do they have any indication that any specific devices or systems in clinical use have been purposely targeted at this time.

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FDA officials said they have been working closely with other federal agencies and manufacturers to identify, communicate and mitigate vulnerabilities and incidents as they are identified.

The agency recommends that manufacturers review their cybersecurity practices and policies to ensure that appropriate safeguards are in place to prevent unauthorized access or modification to their medical devices or compromise the security of information networks that may be connected to the device.