'Smart' Hospital IV Pump Vulnerable To Remote Hack Attack

from the killed-by-apathy dept

By this point, the half-baked security in most internet of things devices has become a bit of a running joke, leading to amusing Twitter accounts like Internet of Shit that highlight the sordid depth of this particular apathy rabbit hole. And while refrigerators leaking your gmail credentials and tea kettles that expose your home networks are entertaining in their own way, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that the same half-assed security in the IOT space also exists on most home routers, your car, your pacemaker, and countless other essential devices and services your life may depend on.

The lack of security in the medical front is particularly alarming. The latest case in point: security researchers have discovered eight vulnerabilities in a syringe infusion pump used by hospitals to help administer medication to patients intravenously. The flaws in the Medifusion 4000 infusion pump, manufactured by UK medical multinational Smiths Group, were discovered by security researcher Scott Gayou. The device is utilized to deliver medications, blood, antibiotics and other fluids to critical care patients, patients undergoing surgery (anesthesia) -- and newborn babies.

The flaws were severe enough to warrant a new warning from the Department of Homeland Security, which issued an advisory that, like similar past advisories, rather downplays the fact these flaws could be utilized by a skilled hacker to kill somebody covertly:

"Successful exploitation of these vulnerabilities may allow a remote attacker to gain unauthorized access and impact the intended operation of the pump. Despite the segmented design, it may be possible for an attacker to compromise the communications module and the therapeutic module of the pump. Impact to individual organizations depends on many factors that are unique to each organization. ICS-CERT recommends that organizations evaluate the impact of these vulnerabilities based on their operational environment and specific clinical usage."

Both the FDA and DHS have ramped up the attention they're giving such vulnerabilities, recently having issued similar first ever warnings about flaws in pacemakers by St. Jude Medical, which can be similarly abused to kill patients. And while this is all wonderful news if you're a wetworker operating in an environment where such flaws take years to discover much less fix, it's decidedly less fun for the companies being criticized for half-assed security measures. In most cases, the companies impacted make it their top priority to downplay the risks involved, as the Smiths Group did in its statement on the vulnerabilities:

The possibility of this exploit taking place in a clinical setting is highly unlikely, as it requires a complex and an unlikely series of conditions.

Except six of the vulnerabilities in question simply involve the use of hard-coded credentials, the same problem that has plagued the home router market for years. For its part, Smiths says it's working hard to implement a fix for the flaws -- that might be released in January 2018. In the interim Smiths is urging hospitals to assess the risk, change the default login credentials, and disconnect these devices from the network where necessary. But considering the low quality of IT support in most hospitals (a major reason for a massive spike in hospital ransomware attacks) -- there's certainly no guarantee of any of these mitigation measures actually happening.

Filed Under: cybersecurity, health, iot, iv pump, security, smart devices


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  1. identicon
    Peter, 24 Sep 2017 @ 6:57pm

    Why aren't the networks separate?

    I thought the best security is to not have the medical equipment on the same network as he rest of the hospital/internet. If they are physically separated, it doesn't matter if the devices have a vulnerability. Not having the medical network connected to the internet would reduce the risks. Of course a hacker could still gain physical access medical network, but that does increase the risk of them being detected and caught.

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