Self-Motivation
David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Actor
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Management
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
Learn
from the world's big
thinkers
Start Learning

Millions of medical devices using old code are open to attack, FDA says

The recent discovery highlights an alarming cybersecurity vulnerability in the health care industry.

Pixabay
  • In July, the security firm Armis Security discovered network protocol bugs in a software component that supports many medical devices operating today.
  • Now, the FDA and security researchers say that these vulnerabilities extend to more devices than initially thought.
  • Fortunately, a large-scale attack seems impossible.


The Food and Drug Administration is warning hospitals and healthcare providers about decades-old cybersecurity vulnerabilities that could mean millions of medical devices are, and have for years been, open to attack.

In July, the security firm Armis Security discovered a suite of 11 network protocol bugs, named Urgent/11, within IPnet, a software component that supports network communications. These bugs could allow hackers to take control of certain medical devices and change their function, cause a denial of service, or cause information leaks or logical flaws that may prevent the device from functioning correctly, the FDA stated.

"Urgent/11 is serious as it enables attackers to take over devices with no user interaction required, and even bypass perimeter security devices such as firewalls and NAT solutions," Armis researchers wrote in a blog post. "These devastating traits make these vulnerabilities 'wormable,' meaning they can be used to propagate malware into and within networks."

This week, security researchers and government officials warned that these bugs aren't limited to platforms running IPnet, but also other distinct platforms that have incorporated the same decades-old code.

"Though the IPnet software may no longer be supported by the original software vendor, some manufacturers have a license that allows them to continue to use it without support," the FDA wrote in a statement. "Therefore, the software may be incorporated into other software applications, equipment, and systems which may be used in a variety of medical and industrial devices that are still in use today."

What kinds of devices might be vulnerable? Patient monitors, infusion pumps, cameras, printers, routers, Wi-Fi mesh access points, and a Panasonic doorbell camera, to name a few. But fortunately, a large-scale attack is likely impossible because, as a BD Alaris spokesperson told WIRED, hackers would need to target each device individually. Also, hackers wouldn't be able to, for example, interrupt an in-process infusion.

Still, the discovery highlights a problem in the healthcare industry: most medical devices are hard to update, and don't get updated unless a serious problem occurs.

"It's a mess and it illustrates the problem of unmanaged embedded devices," said Ben Seri, vice president of research at Armis. "The amount of code changes that have happened in these 15 years are enormous, but the vulnerabilities are the only thing that has remained the same. That's the challenge."

Some operating that might be affected include:

  • VxWorks (by Wind River)
  • Operating System Embedded (OSE; by ENEA)
  • INTEGRITY (by Green Hills)
  • ThreadX (by Microsoft)
  • ITRON (by TRON Forum)

Armis released a free urgent11-detector tool that's able to detect whether a system, on any operating system, is vulnerable to Urgent/11. The FDA also published a list of recommendations for health care providers, patients, and caregivers on its website.

LIVE ON MONDAY | "Lights, camera, activism!" with Judith Light

Join multiple Tony and Emmy Award-winning actress Judith Light live on Big Think at 2 pm ET on Monday.

Big Think LIVE

Add event to calendar

AppleGoogleOffice 365OutlookOutlook.comYahoo

Keep reading Show less

Scientists see 'rarest event ever recorded' in search for dark matter

The team caught a glimpse of a process that takes 18,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years.

Image source: Pixabay
Surprising Science
  • In Italy, a team of scientists is using a highly sophisticated detector to hunt for dark matter.
  • The team observed an ultra-rare particle interaction that reveals the half-life of a xenon-124 atom to be 18 sextillion years.
  • The half-life of a process is how long it takes for half of the radioactive nuclei present in a sample to decay.
Keep reading Show less

Space travel could create language unintelligible to people on Earth

A new study looks at what would happen to human language on a long journey to other star systems.

Cylindrical space colony.

Credit: NASA Ames Research Center.
Surprising Science
  • A new study proposes that language could change dramatically on long space voyages.
  • Spacefaring people might lose the ability to understand the people of Earth.
  • This scenario is of particular concern for potential "generation ships".
Keep reading Show less

Your emotions are the new hot commodity — and there’s an app for that

Many of the most popular apps are about self-improvement.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Personal Growth

Emotions are the newest hot commodity, and we can't get enough.

Keep reading Show less
Scroll down to load more…
Quantcast