Confidentiality has always been central to the doctor-patient relationship, but with technology becoming an indispensable part of the healthcare industry, consulting-room talk may no longer be bound by the Hippocratic Oath. Research by global cybersecurity firm Kaspersky observed that nearly 50 percent of all devices in a pharmaceutical facility are being targetted by hackers. The number of machines that were infected rose by one percent in 2018, from 44 per cent in the previous year.
Moreover, research by Denis Makrushin, Security Architect at Ingram Micro, found that there is credible danger to patients’ medical records, with many hospitals around the world hastily migrating from paper-based data storage to electronic medical record (EMR) systems without securing their databases from sophisticated attacks from malicious actors. While the digitisation of medical records helps hospitals save time and trim expenses, open source EMR web-portals have their frailties apropos security, putting at risk the medical records of millions.
“We are seeing lesser printed or hand-written medical books inside hospitals and clinics worldwide with the advent of open source. Given their limited internal IT workforce, healthcare institutions opt to use convenient services such as OpenEMR, OpenMRS or similar web applications. This technology’s rapid adoption triggers the rise of the threats against this widely-used service,” said Makrushin.
OpenMRS and OpenEMR are open-source platforms that can be customised by users for medical practice management. Since such platforms are not licensed, they can be used commercially without any restrictions. The source code is available to software developers, and is compliant with industry standards. Open EMR is ONC Complete Ambulatory HER certified.
“Their free and open nature makes these EMR-applications highly sensitive to cyber-attacks. There have been a lot of security patches released as researchers unmask one exploit after another. I, myself, have discovered vulnerabilities in these applications. Hackers can inject malicious code at the initial stage of registration, and portray himself as a patient. From this, malicious actors can infect the portal’s page and collect medical information from all users of the portal, including doctors and admins. These data can be easily exfiltrated,” Makrushin added.
The countries that faced the most number of attacks were Pakistan (54 per cent), Egypt (53 percent), Mexico (47 per cent), Indonesia (46 per cent), and Spain (45 per cent). The Asia Pacific region has the most number of infected devices, with six countries making the list of top 15 nations with compromised systems. India, Bangladesh, Hong Kong, and Malaysia round up the top 15, with around four in ten devices with detected malicious attempts.
Hospitals are not alone in facing a barrage of attacks from hackers. Pharmaceutical companies are also being targetted by miscreants eyeing newly developed compounds and technologies that are yet to be patented.
“While it is a known fact that money-hungry cyber-criminals can easily earn by attacking banks, we also observe that these hackers as well as cyberespionage groups are slowly paying a lot of attention towards the industry of advanced medicine,” said Yury Namestnikov, Head of Global Research and Analysis Team (GReAT) Russia at Kaspersky.
“They are slowly realising that pharmaceutical companies house a treasure trove of highly valuable data such as the latest drugs and vaccines, the newest researches, as well as medical secrets. The rise of internet-connected operational technology (OT) inside these pharmaceuticals also contributes to the widening attack surface inside this sector,” he added.
The Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) groups that are spying on pharmaceutical companies globally include Cloud Atlas and APT10, also known as MenuPass. Could Atlas has a long history of cyber espionage, but most of its operations have previously targeted financial institutions and government bodies. They have been on the radar of cyber-security experts since 2014, and have hence focused their activities on entities in Russia, Central Asia, Ukraine, and other regions with ongoing military conflicts. “Based on our monitoring of several APT actors’ movements in the Asia Pacific and globally, we figured that these groups infect servers and exfiltrate data from pharmaceutical companies. Their attack techniques and behaviour also prove that these attackers’ apparent goal is to get their hands on intellectual properties related to the latest medical formulas and research results as well as the business plans of their victims,” Namestnikov added.
Walker, Kiki, Lovot: 7 Robot Companions That Offer Healthcare & Emotional Support
Samsung Bot Care
23 Jan, 2019
Bot Care is the tech giant’s latest healthcare-specialised robot, which can measure your blood pressure, heart rate, respiration and sleeping state, and is even capable of reminding you when it’s time to take your medicine.