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The Critical Necessity for WiFi Filtering in Hospitals

Posted by Geraldine Hunt on Wed, Jun 8th, 2016

Wi-Fi filtering in hospitals ensures a safe internet experience for guests and hospital employees. Filtered Wi-Fi can block unsuitable and malware laden websites. Why would an attacker target a hospital? The famous American criminal Willie Sutton was asked once why he robbed banks, to which he is reported to have answered, “Because that’s where the money is". The statement is apropos to a question that many people are asking in response to the accelerating frequency of cyberattacks on hospitals. Because that’s where the personal information is. Personal information equals money!

Personal information worth 10x  more than a credit card number on black market.

Think about the plethora of information that is available within stored medical records – social security numbers, current addresses, credit card numbers, places of employment, not to mention complete medical histories.  For a cyber-attacker, a hospital can be one stop shop, quickly obtaining data that can easily be sold and distributed in the dark web.  Complete patient records can even be sold to uninsured people willing to turn to identity theft.  It is estimated that personal information is worth ten times more on the black market than a credit card number.

As well as the concentration of personal information hosted on hospital severs, another allure for cyber attackers is the ease of infiltration. Compared to other high value data rich targets such as insurance companies and financial institutions hospitals have traditionally held a more reactionary approach to cyber security.  Unfortunately, at that point, the damage has already been done.  This more relaxed attitude towards cyber security isn’t the direct fault of hospital administration.  Hospitals are focused on the priority of saving lives and understandably that is where resources are addressed.  Hospitals I.T. departments also need to manage the proliferation of new promising medical technologies and devices that greatly augment the ability to service patients, but at the same time, open the door to cyber vulnerabilities. The Internet of Things has arrived.

Consider the Wi-Fi environment of your average hospital :

  • Doctors and other medical staff carry an assortment of data input devices to log real time patient information. 
  • There is a growing fleet of wireless medical devices that will exponentially grow with the explosion of IOT. 
  • Add the personal devices of patients and visitors

Here you have an ecosystem that would be a challenge for even the most seasoned IT security professional.

Security Disasters in the hospital environment

An article printed in the MIT Technology Review dated September 22, 2014 reported a 600% increase in the number of cyber-attacks on hospitals in the previous 10 months.  Another article in Reuters outlines a single attack on Community Health Systems in 2014 which compromised the personal data of 4.5 million patients.  

Last year, a hospital industry study was conducted which showed that Internet connected medical devices are now being used as gateways for botnets.  In one example, two hospitals had various imaging devices as well as blood gas analyzers infected with Trojan induced malware.  Unfortunately these types of malware infestations are difficult to detect due to the fact that many of these devices are often locked by their vendor manufacturers and thus inaccessible to hospital IT staff.  This prevents them from implementing malware scans in order to isolate and  clean them.

Why filter hospital Wi-Fi?

It is for these reasons that Wi-Fi filtering in hospitals is absolutely essential today.  A teenage patient complained on an Internet discussion board concerning the fact that the hospital was blocking all game sites and expressed total bewilderment as to why they would do this.  At the most basic level, hospitals must think about creating a healing environment for all of their patients, which is why sites that might be annoying and disturbing to patients are often blocked.  In addition, streaming media sites need to be blocked or throttled in order to ensure that proper bandwidth is reserved for life saving medical network and Internet processes. 

Locking down the DNS

The ability to block Internet traffic according to web categories and black list dangerous sites is essential.  It is also critical to secure and lock down the DNS Internet configuration to prevents malware,  and phishing attempts from compromising guests’ devices or stealing their identities. It is crucial that a Wi-Fi filtering system is in place to block infected websites.

We can’t alleviate the necessity for hospitals to be wired for network and Internet connectivity.  We need to however, do everything we can to protect them, their data, and the patients they so nobly serve.

If you'd like to find out more about securing the internet and Wi-Fi network in your hospital please get in touch, email

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