Israeli Startup Aims to Avert Healthcare Hacking

Hackers take aim at healthcare

The internet of things or IoT is taking the world by storm. IoT is the network of everyday objects (outside of the typical devices we go online with) that are equipped with technology capable of allowing the devices to send and receive data. This includes anything from smart refrigerators to smartwatches.

Hackers are starting to see that it is easier to go after these unprotected devices rather than attempting to attack people’s traditional computers.

Jump to medical devices today. Old and outdated technology, which is often par for the course, is a recipe for disaster. We have diseases to fight and ailments to fix. Hospitals need medical devices that have smart functionality to increase productivity and data availability for doctors and researchers.

What’s the problem? The same exact problem as other technology integrated into the IoT — there isn’t much protection. What happens if medical devices are the target in a massive cyber attack? Nothing good.

Cynerio

Enter Cynerio, an Israeli startup looking to stop hackers from targeting medical devices.

Cynerio calls what they’re protecting the Internet of Medical Things or IoMT. In an interview, CEO Leon Lerman addressed smart medical devices as, “Good for doctors who can make decisions based on real-time.”

The way Cynerio works is by providing hospitals with network visibility so they know exactly which devices are on the hospital network. The software then assesses which devices are vulnerable.

In day-to-day operations, Cynerio detects any anomalies within medical data that devices are reporting and then protects the system when needed. The cybersecurity software is already helping a handful of hospitals in Israel but they don’t want to stop there. They’re also looking to protect the servers that collect all of the data received from monitored patients.

Cynerio was given the 2019 Global Excellence Award in the Info Security Product Guide Awards. Based on that alone, the future looks bright for the young startup.

Smart Medical Devices

A Gartner analyst, Tom Austin, predicted that by 2021, smart machine revenues will reach $29 billion.

In the world of medicine, a massive revolution is already beginning to take place. Machines are helping doctors and researchers diagnose and research cases that may have slipped through the cracks in the past.

A few medical devices have already jumped to the IoT. Here are three:

  • Smart Asthma Monitoring

Health Care Originals have created a wearable asthma monitoring device.

The way they do it is by attaching a sensor to a patient’s chest to detect symptoms such as cough rate, respiration patterns, heartbeat, and temperature.

The system sends notifications whenever problems related to these issues arise and detects when an inhaler needs to be used. The sensor is autonomous which means that parents don’t have to worry if their children don’t have a smartphone. The sensor is also rechargeable for easy use.

  • AI-Powered Insulin Pump

Diabetics have had to inject insulin the same way for a long time. In 2014, Bigfoot Biomedical was created to sell commercially viable AI-powered insulin pumps.

The whole point of the insulin pump is to make a diabetic’s life easier, healthier, and safer by enabling optimized insulin delivery. The company wants to make it so a machine can manage all aspects of insulin delivery and tracking.

The device isn’t for sale yet, but it is currently in a trial phase.  

  • The SMARTdrill

The SMARTdrill 6.0 is right out of a sci-fi film. From Smart Medical Devices Inc., the drill controls the depth and measurements of drills. It also provides performance feedback, drilling energy, and wireless communication.

The SMARTdrill allows doctors to focus on other aspects besides how far they are drilling.

These smart devices are great but with a lack of security, extremely personal information is being made available. People’s lives are also in danger if one of these devices were to be hacked.

WannaCry

Though there have been several iterations of ransomware over the years, the WannaCry was the source of many headlines in May of 2017 and is still making the news.

The initial attack was estimated to have affected more than 200,000 computers in 150 countries.

In essence, the ransomware acted just like any other ransomware, by encrypting needed data and demanding a ransom in Bitcoin. Total damages are purely speculative but range from hundreds of millions to billions of dollars.

WannaCry infected computers in sixteen hospitals via security bugs in older versions of the Windows operating system. This particular problem repeats itself in typically recommended security software. An organization could make use of malware detection, the best VPNs (virtual private networks), and strongest firewall protection available, but if they aren’t regularly updated, it’s trouble waiting to happen because new iterations of old viruses appear online every single day and walk right through the front door of a network.

It’s fairly obvious that the hospitals in question did NOT have a robust cybersecurity strategy in place. The fact that a old version of Windows XP was implicated in the spread of Wannacry attests to that reality. The bottom line is that the easiest preventative steps, like software updates, are often put off until it’s too late.

Our Future

The internet exists as a sort of dystopian hackfest where every device attached to it can be compromised whenever the urge strikes a hacker. Companies like Cynerio are hoping to make inroads into that vision by creating a more secure environment where the stakes are life and death.

Security in hospitals might be one of the most under-the-radar threats in our growing technological society. With autonomous vehicles taking to the roads and medical devices performing tasks all by themselves, hackers are chomping at the bit for easy opportunities to steal information.

As these devices become more sophisticated, a darker reality presents itself. When a patient could be killed by a hacker taking control of a medical device and demanding ransom, figuring out how to prevent this might hold the key to the future technological advancement of healthcare. If a device can turn on you, who would want to use it?

Cynerio is trying to make sure those who need them aren’t forced to turn down a life-saving device for fear it might kill them.

About the Author
Sam Bocetta is a technical writer focused on network security and open source applications. He writes for a number of security publications, including CSO Online, Tripwire, EC Council, and others.
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