VA Wants to Protect the Medical Internet of Things

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Internet-enabled medical devices could provide a gateway for hackers.

It’s unclear whether hacked pacemakers are a real threat, but the Veterans Affairs Department wants to make sure its patients never find out.

VA is gathering information about ways to protect the digitally-enabled medical devices that make up the Internet of Things -- the devices used for the treatment, diagnosis and monitoring of patients -- from outside intruders.

The department wants a “comprehensive, defense-in-depth” plan that would secure the devices on a hospital system’s network, according to a new request for information.

Today, devices are often connected to the hospital via a wireless connection, according to VA.

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Hospital network security has been under scrutiny in the past few months. The MedStar Health system in Washington, D.C., recently fell victim to a ransomware attack, in which a piece of malware blocked access to patient records and demanded payment.

VA’s requirements for a security solution include:

  • Not needing software to be installed on the device
  • Scalability to millions or more devices
  • Functionality across different physical and virtual environments
  • Consideration for a time lag in the device
  • Ability to provide reports on device traffic volume, threat indicators, and protocols
  • Automation

Last fall, VA’s new chief information officer, LaVerne Council, debuted a new cybersecurity strategy that included a focus on medical cybersecurity and proposed taking new steps to secure connected medical devices.