Imaging Equipment Vulnerable to Cyberattacks

April 4, 2019 | Eric D. Fader | Cybersecurity | Electronic Health Records | Hospitals | Telehealth

Researchers at the Ben-Gurion University Cyber Security Research Center in Israel have created malware that could exploit vulnerabilities in MRI and CT scanning equipment to alter patients’ images. The Washington Post discussed the research project in an April 3 article.

In theory, by adding fabricated cancerous nodules to a MRI or CT scan, an attacker could trick radiologists into diagnosing a serious illness. Scans could also be altered to make a presidential candidate or other politician, for example, appear healthy even though he or she has cancer. In a blind study described in the article, the fabricated images usually fooled the experienced radiologists who participated.

The cyber vulnerabilities flagged by the Israeli researchers arise in the picture archiving and communication systems (PACS) that hospitals and private radiology practices use to transmit and store images. PACS networks are usually connected to the internet and currently most are not encrypted, but this is likely to change over time.

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