Virus Prone Hospital Medical Devices May Cause Patient Personal Injury

Nov 2, 2012

As hospitals increase the amount of advanced medical devices they use in their facilities, the more prone they are to being interrupted or disabled by viruses. Patients are put at risk for personal injury when one of these devices gets infected. A pattern of increasing vulnerability of medical systems being riddled with malware was revealed at a government meeting.

Italiano: Il Prof. Carlo F. Marcelletti in Sal...

Even medical equipment connected at an operating room can be prone to viruses (Photo credit: Wikipedia).

According to MIT Technology Review, participants of a global panel revealed that hospital equipment is increasingly vulnerable to malware infections that often cause patient-monitoring equipment and other software systems to clog and at times become temporarily inoperable.

There has been a detection of malware problems spreading throughout the nation Kevin Fu told the publication. Fu is a leading expert on medical-device security and he is a computer scientist at the University of Michigan and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He also took a part in the government panel discussion.

Interconnection has worsened the problem. Most software-controlled medical equipment run on variants of the Windows operating system, which is a common target for hackers on the web. Typically, the devices are part of an internal network, which are connected via the internet. They then allegedly become to contact with potential viruses when other hospital staff or guests connect to the network with their own outside devices such as laptops or other electronic devices.

Taking a step further, the problem becomes increasingly difficult to manage because medical device manufacturers tend to disallow that their equipment to be modified. This includes the addition of security features have become notoriously disallowed by manufacturing companies.

Fu told the panel that at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, there are 664 pieces of medical equipment that are running on older Windows operating systems. Manufactures will not modify or allow the hospital to modify the equipment even if it is to add antivirus software. They allege it is because of disagreements over whether the modifications could run afoul of U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulatory reviews.

Such circumstances result in the disconnecting a machine or two each week and declaring it inoperable until it is cleaned at Beth Israel.

“I find this mind-boggling,” Fu says. “Conventional malware is rampant in hospitals because of medical devices using unpatched operating systems. There’s little recourse for hospitals when a manufacturer refuses to allow OS updates or security patches.”

The problem is serious and could potentially put people at risk for death. It has been pointed out that at one point malware slowed down fetal monitors used on women with high-risk pregnancies being treated in intensive-care wards.

If you have been involved in a technological related injury at a hospital contact our hospital equipment failure accident lawyers today!

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