For most of us, 2021 feels a lot like last year with COVID-19 lockdowns imposed and more hospital pressures increasing. But, there is a bit of light at the end of the road, with multiple vaccines being rolled out worldwide. The mass vaccine roll-out all across the world offers some hope that by the summer, we’ll see a bit of normality start to return. However, until then, we’ve got to consider the challenges of delivering and administering vaccines on a large scale. The logistical hurdles have been very well documented, but the cybersecurity risks less so, and that is what we will touch on. Read on to learn more!
Clinical and Organizational Risks for the Vaccination
There are two areas that are concerning. First is the persistence of legacy technology, like workstations and network infrastructure, and unpatched devices in most healthcare systems, such as the NHS. The second is the increasing risk profiles that are associated with the network-connected medical devices, which are referred to as the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) Devices. Taken together, these present a significant clinical and organizational risk.
For example, your “standard” ransomware attack targeting hospitals or vaccination hubs that makes patient administration and EMR systems unavailable could significantly disrupt a vaccination because patient details could not be validated. Take this a bit further with a slightly more targeted attack, and you might see pharmacy systems and IoMT devices like medication fridges and dispensing cabinets being compromised. These would have a much more noticeable impact, as with the most time-sensitive and temperature-sensitive vaccines, we could see the loss of valuable batches as a consequence of a cyber-attack.
There is more to this when we consider the supply chain, we have to take transport companies, manufacturers, facilities, and distributers all into consideration. All of these are attractive targets for more nuanced and disruptive cyber-attacks. Attackers increasingly understand the urgency as a means of getting the outcomes they desire, like ransom payments. Vaccination programs present a golden opportunity to take advantage of this.
Each device has to be considered in a clinical context because its risk profile will then chance based on that, and we know that more exploitable IoMT vulnerabilities are discovered more often. The supply chain must all make sure that they have reliable and secure IT companies backing them for every step of the way to ensure that every employee and patient involved is protected during this essential service to get us back to normalcy.
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