Healthcare Supply Chain Association Issues Guidance on Medical Device and Service Cybersecurity

The Healthcare Supply Chain Association (HSCA) has issued guidance for healthcare delivery organizations, medical device manufacturers, and service suppliers on securing medical devices to make them more resilient to cyberattacks.

The use of medical devices in healthcare has grown at an incredible rate and they are now relied upon to provide vital clinical functions that cannot be compromised without diminishing patient care. Medical devices are, however, often vulnerable to cyber threats and could be attacked to cause harm to patients, be taken out of service to pressure healthcare providers into meeting attackers’ extortion demands, or could be accessed remotely to obtain sensitive patient data. Medical devices are often connected to the Internet and can easily be attacked, so it is essential for proactive steps to be taken to improve security.

The HSCA represents healthcare group purchasing organizations (GPOs) and advocates for fair procurement practices and education to improve the efficiency of purchases of healthcare goods and services and, as such, has a unique line of sight over the entire healthcare supply chain. The HSCA guidance is for the entire supply chain and explains some of the key considerations for medical device manufacturers, HDOs, and service providers to improve cybersecurity and address weaknesses before they are exploited by threat actors.

Two of the most important steps to take are to participate in at least one Information Sharing and Analysis Organization (ISAO), such as the Health Information Sharing and Analysis Center (H-ISAC), and to adopt an IT security risk assessment methodology, such as the NIST Cybersecurity Framework (CSF).

An ISAO is a community that actively collaborates to identify and disseminate actionable threat intelligence about the latest cybersecurity threats that allows members to take proactive steps to reduce risk. The NIST CSF and other cybersecurity frameworks help organizations establish and improve their cybersecurity program, prioritize activities, understand their current security status, and identify security gaps that need to be addressed.

HCSA also recommends appointing an information technology and/or network security officer who has overall responsibility for the security of the organization who can communicate risks to decision makers and oversee the security efforts of the organization.

Cybersecurity training for the workforce is vital. All employees must be made aware of the threats they are likely to encounter and should be taught best practices to follow to reduce risk. Training should be provided annually, and phishing simulations conducted regularly to reinforce training. Any employee who fails a simulation should be provided with further training.

Good patch management practices are essential for addressing known vulnerabilities before they can be exploited, anti-virus software should be deployed on all endpoints and be kept up to date, firewalls should be implemented at the network perimeter and internally, least-privilege access should be applied to system resources, and networks should be segmented to prevent lateral movement in the event of a breach. Password policies should also be implemented that are consistent with the latest NIST guidance.

To prevent the interception of sensitive data, all data in transit should be encrypted, backup and data restoration procedures should be implemented and regularly tested to ensure recovery is possible in the event of a cyberattack, and the life expectancy of all devices and software solutions should be specified in all purchase agreements, including all supporting components. Plans should then be made to upgrade equipment and software prior to reaching end-of-life.

In addition to these standard cybersecurity best practices, HCSA has provided specific considerations for HDOs, device manufacturers, and service providers in the guidance – Medical Device and Service Cybersecurity: Key Considerations for Manufacturers & Healthcare Delivery Organizations – which is available for download from the HCSA website.

Author: Steve Alder has many years of experience as a journalist, and comes from a background in market research. He is a specialist on legal and regulatory affairs, and has several years of experience writing about HIPAA. Steve holds a B.Sc. from the University of Liverpool.