By now, we are all familiar with the Internet of Things which presently includes 5 billion devices and is expected to grow to 25 billion devices by the year 2020. The Internet of Things is the popular name for the technology by which products and devices are connected and controlled over the Internet. The range of products that are a part of the Internet of Things is tremendous and includes, cars, refrigerators, televisions, fitness bands, webcams, toys and even medical devices. The Internet of Things offers tremendous opportunities for constructive and efficient use of these products, but as with any technology connected through the Internet also provides an opportunity for hackers to exploit the technology for their own criminal purposes.
While hacking of medical devices sounds like something out of fiction, in 2007, former Vice President Dick Cheney was so concerned about hackers that he had the Internet connection on his pacemaker disabled. In September 2015, the FBI issued a warning saying that “Once criminals have breached such devices, they have access to any personal or medical information stored on the devices and can possibly change the coding controlling the dispensing of medicines or health data collection.” In 2013, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) initially issued guidelines for these medical products and now the FDA has issued a new Draft Guidance document with recommendations for how companies should be dealing with the important issue of cybersecurity in medical devices. Medical device manufacturers affected by the Draft Guidance have until April 21, 2016 to submit comments to the FDA.
While medical device manufacturer’s and the government work on security standards for Internet connected medical devices, what can you do to protect yourself in the meantime? The most important thing you can do is find out what information is stored on your device and how it is accessed. Also learn about the use of password protection and make sure that your device is not still using a default password. Learn from the manufacturer what steps they have already taken to protect your device from being hacked. If your device uses an open wifi connection, you should change it to operate exclusively on a home network with a secured wifi router. If your device is capable of transmitting data, make sure that the transmissions are encrypted.