Bloomberg is drawing attention to an underappreciated risk facing the American medical establishment. At a white hat hacking conference (white hat hackers infiltrate systems to show vulnerabilities that need to be fixed, black hat hackers hack for their own personal gain), researchers demonstrated how vulnerable hospitals and other medical facilities are to hacking.
The most obvious risk from hackers would be changing medical records, deleting allergies or other important information. But as more and more medical machines are run by software, the possibility that hackers could turn on or turn off such vital treatments as IV drips is more and more possible.
There are a variety of avenues hackers could use to access these machines, including:
- Hacking their way into the hospital computers
- Using wifi access points as bridges to gain access to hospital computers
- Hacking phones as an access point for medical records and other sensitive information
- Pre-loading viruses on computers and medical equipment that will be used in hospitals and other medical settings, particularly if the equipment is manufactured in another country with less oversight
The dangers are very real, and the Mayo Clinic and other hospitals are trying to get ahead of the problem. Unfortunately, as has been shown time and again, hackers are extremely capable, and it will be an ongoing battle to keep medical computers secure. Some experts worry that nothing will be done until people start to die as a result of hospital negligence in securing their systems.
Best-case scenario, doctors and nurses would recognize when information was compromised, but doctors and nurses struggle enough with medical errors without this additional complication. In fact, it is unlikely that nurses would notice if a medication was changed by hackers, as medication errors have become so prevalent in the field.
If you or someone you love has suffered due to medical malpractice, it can be difficult to determine what went wrong, and the possibility of hackers only adds to the issue. A full investigation should take place to determine who made the mistake, and an experienced attorney can guide you through the process of getting that investigation done.