IP Information & News

Cyber-attacks in the healthcare sector – protection against a growing threat

Dr Terence Broderick

By Dr Terence Broderick

Senior Patent Attorney

Healthcare technologies have the potential to extend, save and enhance lives. Ranging from storage of electronic health records, devices which deliver medication, telemedicine and wearables, to artificial intelligence enabled diagnostics and virtual reality assisted pain management. These technologies have the potential to improve clinical outcomes and transform care delivery.

However, the data driven nature of these devices, and their increased connectivity, means they are increasingly exposed to cyber-security vulnerabilities. A successful cyber-attack on a healthcare system would not just be newsworthy – it could threaten lives.

Example attacks on healthcare systems can include:

  • Ransomware infections of critical systems to slow them down or render them completely inoperable;
  • Distributed Denial of Service attacks to overwhelm a provider’s network;
  • Injection of malware into supposed isolated medical devices, which then infect the rest of the network, including life support equipment.

It is, of course not possible to implement a 100% effective solution to these vulnerabilities. The battle with the cyber criminals will run and run. However, it is important that solutions are developed which can provide defences against these attacks. It is essential to at least provide a high level of cyber resilience so that, if an attack is successful, the exposed systems can get back to full operability without too much interruption to patient care or compromising on patient safety.

It is therefore clear that there is a lot of scope for technological development in producing innovative defences, which can enable healthcare technologies to function safely, successfully and without high levels of exposure to the activities of cyber-criminals, who may wish to cause damage to a healthcare provider’s operations or, worse, compromise on patient safety.

If you are developing technology which can protect healthcare systems against cyber-attacks then you should consider protecting the technology with a patent application.

At UDL we have the expertise to assist you in navigating the patent system. Please contact tsb@udl.co.uk to discuss your options.

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