Hospital machines created with cyber security flaws run a risk of being hacked

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) — Patient files are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to cyber security problems in healthcare.

Hospital machines used for patient care also need security.

Insulin pumps, Infusion pumps, and Pacemakers are three hospital devices that can be taken over.

Program Director for Cyber Sciences at Augusta University, Dr. Michael Nowatkowski said, “They have wireless access to them that again don’t require any type of authentication.”

He said some devices used to save people’s lives have some cyber safety flaws.

“For this particular Infusion pump it has drug libraries that are in there that limit the amount of dosage for certain drugs a hacker could go in and change those limitations,” he said.

Pumps like those are not always protected with usernames and passwords which means someone can hack into them and that could be deadly.

“Someone could be given a fatal does potentially of certain types of drugs,” said Nowatkowski.

That is also the case with pacemakers.

“Turn it off or do the pulses such that it would cause some type of almost like a heart attack it could interrupt their heart from functioning properly,” he said.

It’s a problem with older hospital machines, but some are still used today.

The best way to keep these machines safe is to test for vulnerabilities.

“They could also look for intrusion detection to see if there are folks in the hospital that are trying to log onto these machines that should not really have access to them”

Cyber security employees are needed to keep these devices secure, but there is a high demand for cyber employees and healthcare does not pay the most.

“The folks that have those skills one way that they can go is to follow the money whoever is paying the most is really going to attract the talent,” said Nowatkowski.

But as cyber continues to grow, he thinks the jobs will get filled.

In the meantime there are agencies like the FDA who are monitoring the problems.

They check where systems and machines are weak to see what hospitals can do to decrease their risk of being hacked.

Technology is also always improving helping to create safer and more secure machines.


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