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5 ways to properly secure medical devices

Medical device security is paramount, so IT professionals should make sure they follow best practices. Here are five ways to secure medical devices to mitigate cyberthreats.

As the number of endpoints within a healthcare organization increases, so does the attack surface, giving hackers and other cybercriminals more ways to access the hospital network.

Medical devices, such as infusion pumps and mobile heart monitors, aren't immune to being hacked, which can have serious consequences for a patient's health. CIOs and other IT leaders should secure medical devices properly to mitigate the risks of potential cyberthreats.

These devices can present challenges to IT, however, because they are difficult to secure with traditional security tools. Instead, IT professionals can secure medical devices with a variety of other methods.

Ask for a vendor's recommendation. Each vendor offers its own set of specifications when it comes to securing its products. IT should follow vendor recommendations to secure medical devices.

Maintain device health. Another way to secure clinical devices is to keep up with their software updates, health and overall status. IT professionals should ensure that they update the device's software regularly and enable encryption to comply with HIPAA. IT can use an asset tracking tool to track all relevant information of these devices. Tools such as Telit, Sierra Wireless IoT tracking and BlueHound help track the different connected devices on the network in real time and monitor event alerts.

IT can roll out advanced network threat detection products to help detect and block threats.

Segment the network. Network administrators can create a perimeter around their clinical devices by restricting access to the network these devices connect to. By doing so, IT can keep those connected devices isolated from external threats, while still enabling them to communicate with servers and other data repositories. Cisco's Campus Fabric software-defined access, for example, offers hospitals with Cisco networking the ability to segment part of their network and create access policies around it to apply additional protection around clinical devices. IT can take similar approaches, such as creating wireless service set identifier or virtual LANs dedicated only to medical devices, which would isolate those devices from the rest of the network.

Detect network attacks with AI. IT can also roll out advanced network threat detection products to help detect and block threats. Intelligent security tools, such as IBM QRadar, Suricata, OpenWIPS-ng and Microsoft Advanced Threat Analytics, use AI and machine learning to detect abnormal activities in network or endpoint traffic that may signal an attack in progress. These early warning systems provide an opportunity for IT to quickly react and secure medical devices prior to a full data breach.

Monitor system alerts and errors. IT administrators should review error logs and other alerts for IoT devices. IT should consider the use of a data log collector, such as syslog-ng or DZone, that can collect logs from clinical devices. IT professionals should centralize data from log files to set up alerts that can notify them to problems within the medical devices that may require immediate attention. IT should receive messages such as failed authentication, equipment malfunction or unauthorized access.

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