Ann Arbor, MI, March 25, 2016 — Healthcare security company Virta Laboratories, Inc. received a $750K grant from the NSF Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. Virta Labs provides solutions for hospitals and medical device manufacturers to measure and visualize exposure to cybersecurity risks without interrupting clinical workflow. The company plans to use the federal grant to extend its product lines into healthcare delivery organizations that face serious cybersecurity challenges. Virta Labs received a Phase I grant from the same program in 2015.
Co-founder Dr. Denis Foo Kune welcomed the news of the award. “We invested years listening to hospitals and device makers about their specific challenges. Our first NSF grant helped us field cutting-edge technology with these customers. This new grant will help us directly address our customers’ evolving concerns at all levels, from front-line technicians to board members.”
Until now, hospital leadership has struggled to meet American Hospital Association recommendations on cybersecurity risk management. “[Cybersecurity] is about identifying the systems that are connected to the hospital’s information network where the hospital has vulnerabilities,” wrote the AHA in “What Hospital Trustees Need to Know About Managing Cybersecurity Risk and Response.” Existing security tools leave gaps when deployed in diverse medical environments, and they often introduce new risks of downtime, says co-founder Dr. Kevin Fu. “Our customers tell us that their number one concern is continuity of operations, and coverage of legacy devices is a close second,” says Fu.
The federal funding arrives at Virta Labs as numerous hospitals across the world have been disrupted by ransomware. Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center paid a $17,000 ransom in February to recover from a week-long attack against its hospital IT systems. Malware subsequently disrupted hospitals in Germany and Australia—including a pathology lab in Melbourne that resorted to manually processing blood samples after malware infected clinical systems. Malware has further disrupted hospitals in California, Kentucky, and West Virginia in the past week.
“Healthcare security is now front-page news. Healthcare organizations are thinking seriously about security, but the best security tools were not designed for the unique challenges of healthcare,” said co-founder Dr. Ben Ransford. “Our mission is to provide clear, continuous visibility into cybersecurity risk without interrupting clinical workflow. The SBIR grant is both validation and a clear message to us: go solve these problems.”
About Virta Labs
Virta Labs provides solutions to measure and visualize exposure to cybersecurity risks for healthcare delivery organizations that must ensure continuity of operations despite cybersecurity threats. Its flagship product, the patent-pending PowerGuard™ execution monitor, identifies runtime anomalies in medical devices without software changes or interruption to clinical workflow. The PowerGuardTM system provides an independent indicator of compromise for difficult-to-protect devices. Products in the Virta Labs’ portfolio extend this approach to the entire network.
Virta Labs has gained recognition for tackling cybersecurity challenges in healthcare. Bill Aerts, Director of Product Security for Medtronic, Inc. explained that, “Kevin Fu is widely credited as establishing the field of medical device security. His highly respected research lab has produced some of the world's leading experts in medical device security. And now he’s driving the creation of new security tools for the industry.” Dug Song, CEO of Duo Security, explains, “Virta’s platform can detect malware more effectively than NSA can read your email. The best part, it’s literally plug and play with no messy software installation.”
About the SBIR Program
The NSF’s SBIR program is a $160 million program funding domestic small businesses to transform scientific discovery into societal and economic benefit by catalyzing private sector commercialization of technological innovations. The competitive program is awards-based and meant to stimulate high-tech innovation in the United States.