IoT in Healthcare: Understanding the security risks and how to address them

Recently, there has been a growing buzz around IoT or otherwise known as Internet of Things as the next major step in the evolution of utilizing computers and data to communicate between types of items. The Internet of Things (IoT) has the potential to revolutionize the healthcare industry. The principal driving factors behind these innovations is the cost savings that implementing these new technologies will have on the bottom line of the organizations that wish to employ them. IoT is not just a new trend or a new way of thinking, but a shift in how to utilize technology in new ways that will benefit mankind, and more specifically, the patients in the hospital.

In healthcare, the Internet of Things offers many advantages, ranging from being able to monitor patients more accurately to using generated data for analytics. IOT is rapidly being adopted by major healthcare organizations for the patient health management as well as to enhance the operational efficiency of these organizations. Cost efficiency, reliability and better health management of the patients are one of the most important goals that can be achieved with the help of IOT usage in the healthcare sector.

The possible risks of IoT in Healthcare
• With the benefits and applications of IoT, there is a downside attached too, with the biggest threat being the breaching of patient’s privacy. Whether a physician is dealing with a patient’s PHI (Personal Health Information) or if they are looking at what procedures they have had, all of this information is becoming readily available. Hackers can carry out malicious activities to take the control of the entire healthcare IoT ecosystem leading to detrimental consequences on the health of the patients, even causing their deaths.
• Another concern is accidental failures, which corrode faith and could bring an end to these promising technologies in their tracks. Just one negative incident, frequently repeated in the media, could stop an entire class of budding technologies from ever becoming a reality.
• One of the most dangerous threats of IoT in healthcare is widespread disruption. Theoretically, a part of selected malware could circulate across the Internet, and only comes into effect when it verified it was in a medical device. Such malware could influence everybody with a susceptible device. This unbelievable but feasible scenario has surfaced in business IT systems and industrial control systems.

What should be done to achieve better healthcare IoT security?
Despite a number of risks, it looks like the healthcare sector has acknowledged the fact that IoT is the future. In order to ensure safety and security, there are steps that providers and manufacturers alike can take.
• Most importantly, ‘basic security hygiene’ is a necessity; such as authentication. If this step is correctly implemented, device access gets restricted, firmware being sent to the device is verified, and device-to-device communication undergoes inspection.
• Another necessary security protection measure that healthcare sector can take includes encryption and conducting a secure boot. A secure boot makes sure that when a device is turned on, none of its configurations gets tailored.

Addressing the above issues with encryption algorithms and secured communication between devices will help in resolving some of the preliminary security issues that organizations will face once they start looking at ways to implement the IoT devices within their healthcare environment. Understanding these possible risks and benefits will help the organization to alleviate them, while also getting the most out of their implementation. The future of IoT within the healthcare industry looks promising, but a cautious approach to their implementation is required in order to address the risks they pose to the potential loss of patient data.