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Securing Medical Devices Is Topic of Conference Keynote


By Jeff Dorsch, Contributing Editor

The Designers of Things conference and exposition in San Jose, Calif., kicked off Wednesday morning (December 2) with a keynote address by Jay Radcliffe of Rapid7.

He looked at medical devices in particular, and how these Internet-connected devices could be secured.

As a cybersecurity researcher, Radcliffe has procured hundreds of medical devices by various means to examine them for security vulnerabilities.

These issues are personal for him, since he has Type 1 diabetes. “Insulin pumps help people live a better life,” he said. “They help parents live a happier life.”

Headlines about online theft of credit-card information and identity theft point to the insecurity of sensitive information, Radcliffe noted. “We can’t secure a simple five-dollar transaction,” he commented. The vulnerability of medical devices is more critical. “You could lose someone’s life,” he said.

“More malware is coming out on Android devices,” Radcliffe said. At the same time, some companies are turning to the Android mobile operating system as “the foundation for medical devices saving people’s lives,” he added.

Development of medical devices for the Internet of Things worries the veteran security researcher. “My fear – we’re going too fast,” Radcliffe said. “How do we put Bluetooth in our medical devices safely?”

Too often, people in positions of authority say cybersecurity is “too complicated,” Radcliffe said. Not enough cybersecurity specialists are available, they insist.

The answer? “We need a Spartan,” referring to the warriors of ancient Sparta, he said. “They defended.”

Radcliffe added, “You need a security researcher, a specialist.” Such personnel are available as consultants, he noted. There are ISO standards on vulnerability management.

Consultants and security partners should be aware of “all aspects of your business,” he advised.

Radcliffe concluded, “Keep security in the loop for the lifecycle of your device.”

The Rapid7 consultant was followed by Ryan Cousins, chief executive officer of krtkl, creator of the Snickerdoodle development board for drones, robots, and other applications. His theme was, “Why the IoT is broken, and how to fix it.”

The present state of IoT has “too much ‘I’” and “not enough ‘T’,” he asserted. Software is dynamic, while hardware is typically static, he said.

“What happens when they’re one and the same?” Cousins asked. Through the use of programmable logic, hardware can be reconfigured through software updates, he said.

The future? ARM-based field-programmable gate array system-on-a-chip devices, according to Cousins.

With such technology, hardware can be changed in the field, there are longer product lifecycles with design reuse and quicker time-to-market, resulting in “engaged and happy customers” and “expanded revenue streams,” he said.

Once a product is shipped, reconfigurable hardware can integrate machine vision, accelerate the use of complex algorithms, modify and add capabilities, and increase intelligence, Cousins added.

“Now THAT is an IoT,” he concluded.

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