New research from Forescout found that healthcare organizations are increasingly at risk from legacy platforms, device complexity, and the use of frequently exploited protocols. 

Forescout analyzed 75 healthcare deployments running over 1.5 million devices across 10,000 VLANs (virtual local area networks). Only 1% were found to be running unsupported operating systems, but 71% of Windows devices were found to be using Windows 7, Windows 2008, or Windows Mobile, all of which will be unsupported by Microsoft in January 2020. Without support and patching available, these devices will be susceptible to attack. 

Healthcare organizations are putting themselves at further risk by using services like SMB, which was exploited in the notorious WannaCry ransomware attacks, in addition to RDP, FTP, and other high-risk services. 85% of Windows devices had SMB enabled and 35% were found to be running RDP, a service commonly used in fileless attacks. 

Researchers also determined that healthcare organizations are increasingly deploying IoT and medical connect devices - devices such as patient monitors, patient tracking and identification tools, and infusion pumps being the most common. 

The shift to these technologies presents greater cyber risks, considering the majority of these devices are not developed with security in mind. As these devices continue to increase, the attack surface expands, making it difficult to scale security. 

A third of healthcare organizations' medical VLANs (34%) were found supporting over 100 distinct device vendors, with even more likely to exist on other networks. Patching these devices is often difficult due to the criticality of the devices, and in some cases, patching invalidates the product's warranty. In some cases, vendors are responsible for patching themselves. Even worse, sometimes devices are connected to the network without any oversight from IT. 

The complexity of healthcare IT environments poses possibly dangerous risks to patient safety. NNT suggests embracing network segmentation; it's the best way to isolate these vulnerable devices and significantly reduce the attack surface. A good start would be to employ VLANs to segment the network based on the needs and priorities of your organization, leaving your critical data segregated by system access based on credentials. With high-risk devices segmented, a potential breach can be contained, limiting the risk significantly.

This coupled with continuous visibility and Closed-Loop Intelligent Change Control over enterprise-wide devices will help healthcare organizations spot potential breaches by reducing "change noise" and exposing insider and zero-day malware activity. 

 

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