Virta Labs Blog


Not All Heroes Wear Suits: Finding Risks Before Attackers Do

Posted by Ben Ransford on May 16, 2017 3:35:00 AM

(This post is part 2 of 2.  Yesterday we wrote about the unfair fight between attackers and defenders.  Today: simple tools and techniques.)


If you WannaCry after this weekend's explosion of worm-ridden ransomware afflicting healthcare providers, go ahead; you're not alone.

The good news is that there are concrete steps you can take to assess your organization's level of exposure to WannaCry a

nd the vulnerability it exploits.  In this post, we'll share some free, basic tests you can perform using tried-and-true open-source tools.  We sell fancy tools to collect and assess networked clinical device inventory, but as technologists and IT administrators ourselves, we're always inclined toward whatever tools get the job done fastest.  In this post we'll cover a simple set of tests that you can start running in under a minute.

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Topics: Ransomware, Asset Management, Clinical Cybersecurity

Be the Hero of Your Weekly Ransomware Staff Meeting

Posted by Ben Ransford on May 15, 2017 3:25:00 AM

(This post is part 1 of 2.  Tomorrow we'll talk about how we coax identifiers out of clinical devices.)

This week's outbreak of click-less ransomware has not been kind to continuity of hospital operations. The bad guys on the outside know the cybersecurity risks of the clinical networks better than the good guys on the inside. That's not a fair fight. How do the bad guys write such infectious malware?  Thanks to easily used tools and public information sources, They know your inventory of software better than you do.

So here's a recommended script for your 7AM emergency cabinet meetings:

1. Offer 60 seconds for your staff to complain about ransomware.

Share a couple horror stories and anecdotes of dodged ransomware bullets. Then stop admiring the problem and focus on your own assets.

2. Biomedical engineering and the IT department need to be on the same page.

In our experience, the best prepared hospitals have a collaborative culture between biomedical engineering and IT. Maybe IT tipped over radiology a few times while trying to "help" biomedical engineering with vulnerability scanning. Don't blame people; you need to work together to continuously assess your population of devices because otherwise the bad guys are going to do it anyway, and not share the results with you. 

If your governance structure leads to in-fighting over responsibility and accountability for cybersecurity of networked medical devices, then your governance is broken. If your management does not provide a cybersecurity budget close to the industry standard for health systems, then maybe the Board needs a shake-up (4% of the IT budget is sad, 11% of the IT budget means you worry about nation state threats).

The CEO needs to empower an executive or manager who understands both IT and clinical risk to make cybersecurity decisions. Examples of potential candidates: a nurse with a degree in management of IT systems will likely understand the importance of safety and health outcomes in the context of cybersecurity. An IT manager who volunteers as an EMT will better understand that IT security is a means to an end, and that security must support safe delivery of healthcare.

3. Fix your networked medical device inventory by fixing the process.

Within a hospital, biomedical engineering often owns the database of medical devices for the Joint Commission certification of 99% accuracy of inventory of life-sustaining devices, but IT owns the databases of network inventory. The days of separately managed data ended when your medical devices joined the network. You have to do both at the same time to understand what networked medical device assets are at risk. We find the most mature healthcare systems follow the NIST cybersecurity framework to first enumerate the risks of assets (both tracked assets and shadow IT). Only after getting solid coverage of the asset population can one make risk-based and business-based decisions on how to compensate for security deficiencies in medical devices. Hire an expensive consulting team or buy a product from any healthcare cybersecurity vendor to get a grip on your inventory and prioritized remediations and compensating controls. The third step is most forgotten: continuously measure the effectiveness of your compensating controls because the bad guys certainly do. No security solution will last in perpetuity, so you must constantly verify controls and adapt to shifting threats and new vulnerabilities. But do so in a risk-based manner focused on essential clinical performance. Do not fetishize cybersecurity, for it is merely a means to and end for safe and highly available delivery of healthcare.

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Topics: Ransomware, Asset Discovery

Safety first: cybersecurity of assets on clinical networks

Posted by Kevin Fu on Mar 4, 2017 12:39:54 PM

It's been an amazingly busy year for medical device security. In 2015, the average hospital had not heard of ransomware. (We warned of the hospital malware onslaught in 2012!) In 2016, the hospital C-suites began asking us, "Could that happen here??" after neighboring health systems were taken offline for days by malware. Duh, yes. The important question is how will you ensure that hospital operations continue to remain available to deliver patient care despite legacy capital equipment, cybersecurity risks, and the shifting threat landscape.

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Topics: Healthcare Cybersecurity, Ransomware, Medical Device Security, Legacy Medical Devices, Asset Management, Enterprise Risk Management, Inventory Management, Clinical Security, CMMS

OCR on ransomware and why inventory matters

Posted by Kevin Fu on Jul 13, 2016 5:19:46 PM

This blog post is about the long awaited fact sheet from HHS Office of Civil Rights (OCR) on ransomware, and why you should take this one seriously in terms of having an accurate inventory of networked medical devices to reduce the probability of enjoying the pleasure of reporting a breach to OCR.

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Topics: Healthcare Cybersecurity, Ransomware, Medical Device Security, Legacy Medical Devices, Asset Management, Enterprise Risk Management, Inventory Management, Clinical Security, CMMS

Don't Let Ransomware Be The JBoss Of You

Posted by Michael Holt on May 3, 2016 8:15:00 AM

Ransomware is just the tip of the iceberg.

As we roll out BlueFlow™, we wanted to take some time to share two quick graphics with you that we've used to help us frame our conversations with healthcare delivery organizations (HDOs).

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Topics: Healthcare Cybersecurity, Ransomware, Medical Device Security, Breaches, Network Assets, Enterprise Security, Network Security, Network Scanning, Inventory Discovery, Vulnerability Management, Downtime

FDA Postmarket Cybersecurity Guidance Respects Clinical Workflow

Posted by Michael Holt on Apr 26, 2016 11:28:56 AM

Last week, the Food and Drug Adminstration (FDA) closed the public comment period on the draft guidelines for Postmarket Management of Cybersecurity in Medical Devices.

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Topics: FDA, Healthcare Cybersecurity, Ransomware, Medical Device Security, Clinical Security, Clinical Information Systems, Medical Device ePHI