Guardians of IoT: Strengthening the Security of IoT-Connected Medical Devices in the Healthcare Industry

Coalfire Cybersecurity Team

October 23, 2023
2b476930 fd61 4ac4 a8e2 75317dff270b Coalfire Main Image Blog Guardians 800x420 FINAL

The healthcare ecosystem requires stakeholders to have a comprehensive grasp of the industry-specific vulnerabilities, especially in its emerging technology. Coalfire examines key healthcare-specific IoT vulnerabilities, helping healthcare IoT manufacturers and medical facility administrations know what to look for when finding a security vendor.

Key takeaways:

  • The integration of Internet of Things (IoT) has transformed the healthcare industry, enabling remote monitoring, improved patient care, and efficient data management. While revolutionizing, the incorporation of IoT into healthcare has also introduced significant security vulnerabilities that need to be addressed to protect patient data and ensure the integrity of medical treatments.
  • Medical IoT devices face security challenges on both the input and output fronts. Input vulnerabilities include unauthenticated data entry, insufficient data validation, sensor spoofing, interference, and remote data tampering. Output vulnerabilities consist of unauthorized data disclosure, data integrity concerns, cloud security, insecure mobile apps, and unencrypted data transmission.
  • Enhance the security of IoT medical devices by implementing stringent authentication and access controls, regular software and firmware updates, secure communication protocols, robust network security measures, and comprehensive healthcare personnel training.

IoT technology in medical devices has revolutionized the healthcare industry, enabling remote monitoring, enhanced patient care, and efficient data management. However, this increased connectivity has also introduced security vulnerabilities that can harm medical treatments and expose patient data.

In this blog, we will explore vulnerabilities associated with medical devices, focusing on input and output components, secure communication protocols, and other measures to mitigate risks and ensure the safety, confidentiality, and integrity of patient data.

Input Vulnerabilities

Medical devices often rely on various input mechanisms, such as touchscreens, sensors, or wireless interfaces that collect patient data or receive commands. Attackers may attempt to inject malicious data, exploit insecure communication channels, or obtain insecurely stored protected health information (PHI) present on the device.

Examples include:

  1. Unauthenticated Data Entry: Medical devices that accept unauthenticated data can allow for the injection of malicious content into patient records, or dosage and monitoring data, potentially affecting diagnoses and treatment.
  2. Insufficient Data Validation: Insufficiently verifying or checking the information provided may allow for the introduction of malformed data, disrupting the device's operation or causing incorrect readings.
  3. Sensor Spoofing: Attackers can manipulate sensors to cause false readings, leading to inaccurate diagnoses or treatment decisions.
  4. Interference: Interference from other electronic devices or wireless signals can disrupt communication between the device and medical professionals.


Output Vulnerabilities

Output devices in medical devices, including displays, printers, or connected systems, similarly present potential security vulnerabilities. Manipulating output mechanisms can lead to the dissemination of incorrect or compromised information, affecting medical decisions and patient care. Safeguarding output channels through secure connections, encrypted transmissions, and validation of displayed information can mitigate these risks and ensure the accuracy and confidentiality of medical data.

Examples include:

  1. Unauthorized Data Disclosure: Insufficient access controls on output devices can result in unauthorized access to sensitive patient information or medical records, potentially leading to unauthorized data disclosure.
  2. Data Integrity Concerns: Manipulation of data both on and from the device, such as vital signs, dosage history, and procedure information, can result in improper treatment decisions and affect patient safety.
  3. Cloud Security: IoT devices that store patient data in the cloud can be exposed to cloud-based security vulnerabilities.
  4. Unencrypted Data Transmission: Data outputs that are not properly encrypted can be intercepted during transmission, leading to data breaches and privacy concerns.


Mitigating IoT Security Risks in Medical Devices:

To secure IoT medical devices and protect patient data, several key strategies must be implemented:

  1. Implement stringent authentication mechanisms and access controls to ensure only authorized individuals can access and interact with the devices.
  2. Regularly update software and firmware to address vulnerabilities and ensure the devices are running on the latest secure versions.
  3. Employ secure communication protocols and encryption mechanisms to protect data transmission and storage, while also helping prevent unauthorized access.
  4. Implement robust network security measures, including network segmentation, firewalls, and intrusion detection systems, to safeguard against network-based attacks.
  5. Train healthcare personnel on security best practices, including proper handling of medical devices, user authentication, and reporting any suspicious activities or device anomalies.
  6. Collaborate with device manufacturers to ensure regular security assessments, firmware updates, and adherence to industry best practices.


Addressing security vulnerabilities is critical as IoT technology becomes a routine part of patient care. Healthcare organizations can fortify their defenses against potential attacks by focusing on securing input and output components, implementing strong authentication and access controls, ensuring network security, and maintaining physical security. A proactive approach to IoT security in medical devices ensures the safety, privacy, and integrity of patient data, fostering trust in the healthcare industry while allowing advanced, interactive, and timely patient care.