Thursday, 18 October 2012

Computer virus danger to hospital patients

Would you trust a heart monitor
running Windows 98?
Hospital medical equipment running old versions of Windows is often infected with malware.

Some fear that patient safety could be affected if critical systems run too slowly or fail altogether.

Medical facilities always face the risk of exposing already vulnerable patients to infection, but the BBC reports that hospital computers in the US and UK host malware that is "rampant" on their systems.

The core problem seems to be that very important systems are left alone and not updated, presumably because any change could adversely affect how they work.

This is similar to the security approach taken with industrial control systems. The priority is constant operation and, as security expert Eugene Kaspersky notes in his blog, those who run such systems have this attitude:
"Rule #1 is 'Do not touch. Ever.'"
According to the BBC, Kevin Fu ("a leading expert in medical technology"), can imagine a situation in which a heart-monitoring system running Windows could slow down due to a malware infection and malfunction. In reality, though, he notes that,
"there is no evidence as yet that the malware is reaching medical machines as a result of being targeted by criminals."