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Guest Blog

Hospital Network Security: A matter of life & death

For many of us, we believe hospitals are one of the safest places in the world.

They have highly qualified doctors and nurses at our fingertips, world-renowned medications and drugs readily available for use and operating rooms equipped to save lives. However, what we often overlook is that hospitals are also one of the most at-risk organizations, and we need not look any further than the Symbiq Infusion System to understand why.


Recently, the FDA announced that healthcare facilities should stop using the some 400,000 Symbiq Infusion System pumps installed in hospitals around the world due to high security threats. The FDA found the pumps made by Hospira could be remotely accessed through hospital networks, potentially allowing unauthorized users to control the device and change the dosage the pump delivers, ultimately leading to over or under infusion of critical patient therapies. While it's not hard to imagine how this could turn a life-saving IV pump into a life-threatening device, the most concerning part about all of this is that the problem of medical device security does not start and end with the Hospira Life Pump.

With all the excitement surrounding wireless connectivity to medical devices, security has taken a backseat, making healthcare one of the most vulnerable industries. It's important now more than ever that hospitals reevaluate how they are putting medical devices on their networks, so they are prepared in the event an FDA advisory is released. Along similar lines, it's critical that healthcare professionals be proactive about security concerns. Rather than relying on biomedical departments to alert them about medical device concerns, hospital IT needs to proactively identify network activity and abnormalities.

The Symbiq Infusion System is hardly the only wireless-connected medical device we should be concerned about. Given today's security landscape, all medical devices are at risk. The good news is there are steps that hospital IT can take to mitigate these risks. It all starts with better network visibility, and network analytics solutions like Purview are giving IT just that. To learn more, click here.  

About the Author

Bob Zemke is the Director of Healthcare Solutions and is responsible for the healthcare market strategy at Extreme Networks.

An IT professional with a broad span of experience in healthcare, Bob has over 14 years working both within hospital IT and as a consultant in next generation network design, deployment and management. Bob has been featured in publications such as HealthCare Design Magazine, Mobile Wireless Magazine, and Healthcare Executive Exchange. He is coauthor of a book entitled "WiFi Enabled Healthcare" that is available on Amazon.com. Bob frequently participates industry-specific events including HIMSS, Enterprise Connect, Interop and is active in the AAMI, CWNP, IEEE, and HIMSS organizations . Bob holds an BA degree in Telecommunications Management from Western Michigan University and his MS in Telecommunications and Network Management from Syracuse University's iSchool.

Topics: Network Analytics Healthcare Purview Network Security