Why the IoT in healthcare could cause serious problems

The Internet of Things (IoT) is evolving into a widespread phenomenon that touches all industries and lifestyles, creating what is supposed to be a world of unprecedented convenience and connectivity. When we look at the immediate advantages of linking our fitness, home security, travel, entertainment and many more facets of our lives to computers or internet networks, it seems like a good idea.

The IoT allows us to do things like check on our homes from remote locations, track our progress on fitness goals and change routes mid trip in order to avoid massive traffic pileups. But should all aspects of our lives be connected to the IoT? Before you reach your conclusion based on the benefits of the IoT, consider the drawbacks as well. If a device is hooked up to the internet or computer server, that device and the data that it contains and collects is vulnerable to cyber attack. In other words, users stand the risk of having their data stolen and exploited by hackers.

In some scenarios, this may not seem like a big deal. If a hacker somehow got hold of the data from your fitness watch, they wouldn’t be able to do much with your average weekly step count. But what about information that is more sensitive, such as medical information? With the IoT infiltrating the medical industry in recent years, let’s look at the problems that could arise as a result.

In terms of convenience, the Internet of Things medical edition is a hole in one. However, in terms of security, it has the potential to become a nightmare. Let’s start by looking at the kind of data that could be at risk. IoT medical devices manage patients’ treatment and medication regimens, monitor and report/transmit information about their vitals or symptoms and even manage vast databases of patient data, including medical records. So what are some potential consequences of this information being compromised?

We’ll begin with medical records. Medical records contain more than potentially embarrassing information about a patient’s health. They contain sensitive info that is critical to the security of an individual’s identity, such as social security number. Unfortunately, there are plenty of cyber criminals who know this, which makes medical records a logical target for their hacking efforts.

With many hospital and health facility networks in charge of managing the electronic medical records for massive quantities of patients, some have turned to network virtualization as a way of managing the network. This technology involves an element of shared access to files. With so much data being managed by a program that must perfectly coordinate access credentials, it’s easy to wonder if this management method is foolproof. This is particularly poignant in light of the great sensitivity of the data that hangs in the balance.

Perhaps an even more shiver-inducing possibility is the thought that a hacker could interfere with the information sent or received by IoT medical devices meant to monitor or regulate a patient’s condition or treatment. Unfortunately, this is a scary reality. The idea is that if one of these devices were compromised, say, a device that sends information about a patient’s vitals, similar to what you would see in a hospital room, the doctors and nurses who are relying on this information to keep the patient safe and healthy might be left helpless to come to the patient’s aid should they need care. Another haunting scenario would be if devices that administer medication were hacked and manipulated by cyber criminals. This could have fatal consequences.

While the Internet of Things has brought us to a new level of convenience in day to day living, there are important considerations that must be made before it is broadly implemented. At the forefront of these consideration should be the security and safety of its users.

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