Evaluating the software security of medical devices - Embedded.com

Evaluating the software security of medical devices


Medical devices used for critical care are becoming increasingly reliant on software. However, little is understood about the security vulnerabilities facing medical devices and their software.

Our present work assesses how software/ firmware updates and software security vulnerabilities are likely to impact the safety and effectiveness of computer controlled medical devices.

Furthermore, medical devices have the unique property that they must do everything they can to fail open in order to ensure that a life-critical device continues to operate even in the wake of an adverse event.

Studying the susceptibility of medical devices to malware now is important because:

(1) software in medical devices is becoming increasingly complex;

(2) more and more medical devices are becoming networked with wireless Internet connectivity;

(3) more medical devices are evolving from electro-mechanical tosoftware-controlled devices; and

(4) analyzing security after a potential risk becomes a tangible threat would be too late for effective deployment of defensive technology.

To investigate this open question, we analyzed the security of software that controls a modern Automated External Defibrillator (AED) used for treating cardiac arrhythmias. This report represents the first public embedded software security analysis of a medical device.

We identify several software security vulnerabilities and discuss key insights and open challenges in improving software-controlled medical devices to be resistant to malware.

We found the AED would accept counterfeit firmware updates. We did not locate any standard cryptographic controls.

We conclude with recommendations and open challenges in securing medical devices.

To read this external content in full, download the complete paper from the author archives at Carnegie Mellon University. http://www.contrib.andrew.cmu.edu/~ppoosank/papers/hanna-aed-healthsec11.pdf

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