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Security Crisis of Cardiac Pacemakers Paves the Way for IoT Security Evolution in Cardiology

By INGA SHUGALO

While the healthcare IoT demand forecasts are more than generous, anticipating the market to hit $158.07B by 2022, there is still a certain delay in IoT adoption across the industry. Connected medical devices, especially those that are directly involved in patient care, are adopted cautiously due to potential security vulnerabilities and risks to patient safety.

One of the reasons behind the hesitant adoption of healthcare IoT in cardiology is preexisting concerns about the security of implantable medical devices, such as pacemakers.

The recent pacemaker crisis revealed the vulnerabilities in pacemaker software across several major vendors. If exploited, software vulnerabilities would allow hackers to take over the device and control it fully. The crisis led to device recalls, certain features disabled, and even remote updates cut off completely to avoid unacceptable health risks.

This series of events led to a cautious attitude toward the emerging cardiology IoT. Since we can’t be sure that all exploits and vulnerabilities are eliminated in less advanced systems, are we really ready to take a step forward to more elaborate healthcare software solutions at this point?

The fact of the matter is, cardiology is already taking these steps. The new generation of pacemakers has embedded sensors to monitor a patient’s blood temperature, sinus node rate, breathing, and other vitals. This data is used to flexibly alter the heart rate, slowing or speeding it depending on a patient’s current activity level. They also inherited remote control from their predecessors. Practically, next-gen pacemakers are IoT devices.

Accordingly, the industry can either stigmatize the security concerns or choose to adopt a new perspective, seeing the pacemaker crisis as an opportunity to create a solid platform for unbiased adoption of upcoming connected cardiac devices.

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