Analysis of device data shines a light on cybersecurity risks in healthcare

The convergence of IT, IoT and OT makes it more difficult for the healthcare industry to manage a wide array of hard-to-control network security risks. IoT and OT devices are rapidly increasing in numbers, but traditional IT still represents the most vulnerable attack surface, according to the Forescout Technologies report.

cybersecurity risks in healthcare

Forescout Technologies announced insights from 75 real healthcare deployments with more than 10,000 virtual local area networks (VLANs) and 1.5 million devices contained within the Forescout Device Cloud, with a specific focus on 1,500 medical VLANs with more than 430,000 devices.

Healthcare OT increases attack surface

Forescout researchers found that the most common devices on medical networks are still traditional computing devices (53 percent) followed by IoT devices (39 percent), including VoIP phones, network printers, tablets and smart TVs.

OT systems, including medical devices, critical care systems, building automation systems, facilities, utilities and physical security, comprise eight percent of the devices on medical networks.

Within the OT device category, the three most common connected medical devices found were patient tracking and identification systems (38 percent), infusion pumps (32 percent) and patient monitors (12 percent). Considering the growing number of vulnerabilities in OT environments, we can see an increase in the attack surface in healthcare environments.

Healthcare organizations riddled with devices running legacy Windows operating systems

The Forescout Device Cloud Report highlights that 71 percent of Windows devices within these healthcare deployments are running Windows 7, Windows 2008 or Windows Mobile, with Microsoft support planned to expire on January 14, 2020.

Running unsupported operating systems poses a risk that may expose vulnerabilities and has the potential to impact regulatory compliance.

Diversity of operating systems and vendor sprawl creates headaches

The diversity of device vendors and operating systems present on medical networks adds to the complexity and increases security challenges. Forescout’s research found that 40 percent of healthcare deployments had more than 20 different operating systems.

When looking at the different types of operating systems found on medical VLANs, 59 percent were Windows operating systems and 41 percent were a mix of other variants, including mobile, embedded firmware and network infrastructure and many more.

In addition, more than 30 percent of healthcare deployments had 100 or more device vendors on their network. Patching in healthcare environments, especially acute care facilities, can be challenging and require devices to remain online and available. Some healthcare devices cannot be patched, may require vendor approval or need manual implementation by remote maintenance personnel.

cybersecurity risks in healthcare

Vulnerable protocols are leaving a door open

Eighty-five percent of devices on medical networks running Windows OS had Server Block Messaging (SMB) protocol turned on, allowing uncontrolled access for attackers to get beyond the perimeter and move laterally.

Device manufacturers sometimes leave network ports open by default—often unbeknownst to IT and security staff.