Minimising the cyber risks unique to hospitals

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Callum Bartholomew, Operations Manager – Health Technology Integrations, at not-for-profit private health service provider, Cabrini Health Melbourne in Australia, discusses some of the major cybersecurity risks facing hospitals and other healthcare facilities, and outlines the company’s own approach to minimising the risk of so-called ‘cyberattacks’. He also suggests some of the key steps that other healthcare organisations can take to maintain the integrity and security of their own connected assets.

Cyber risk in health continues to grow, with more and more attacks being reported. Attacks can cause disruption to mission critical services, loss of data, and breaches of privacy, but unique to hospitals are the risks to our patients and staff arising due to the co-existence of medical devices on modern unified and shared network infrastructure.

US-based not-for-profit, the ECRI Institute, listed cybersecurity attacks at the top of the list of hazards for 2022 due to the large volume of connected devices in hospitals, both medical and non-medical. Cyber vulnerabilities are published frequently by manufacturers and vendors of software, building control systems, and Internet of Things (IoT) and medical devices, that require corrective action ranging from software patching through to replacement or isolation.

Added complexity arises due to undefined responsibility for asset management, monitoring sources of vulnerability alerts, and remediation across all disciplines. Hospital IT Departments often purposely exclude active management of networked building control systems and medical devices on the assumption that these will be appropriately managed by others, often the vendor or service provider. The real risk is not knowing what you don't know.

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