This will come as absolutely no surprise to regular readers of this blog, but The Washington Post has published the results of an investigation into security in the healthcare sector, and the results are… well, what I’d expect. The article is instructive for the range of problems it covers and some real-world examples.
Many of the potential risks are obvious – like employees losing laptops or mobile devices or having them stolen with unencrypted information on them. Others may not be so obvious to hospitals and practitioners, like this example:
Another researcher, Tim Elrod, a consultant at FishNet Security, found vulnerabilities in a system that enables care providers using a Web browser to automatically dispense drugs from a secure cabinet produced by Omnicell.
Working with Stefan Morris, Elrod discovered that unauthorized users could sidestep the login and password page and gain control of a cabinet at a hospital run by Integris Health, the largest health organization in Oklahoma. They used a well-known hacking technique called a “forced browsing” attack.
“At that point, we had full administrative control,” Elrod said. “We could do anything.”
After being contacted by The Post, Peter Fisher, vice president of engineering at Omnicell, said he “is launching an immediate investigation into this reported vulnerability.” The same day, the company issued a software fix to customers around the globe.
The article is not doing much for Omnicell’s public relations, as this is the second time this month that their name has been associated with security problems. In the first case, a laptop stolen from their employee’s car contained information on 4,000 patients in Michigan.
But Omnicell is just one of may firms whose software may contain vulnerabilities or flaws that well-meaning health care systems may not detect in time to protect patient data.
Overall, I really recommend everyone read the Washington Post piece.