AUGUSTA, Ga. (WFXG) - Augusta University is researching cybersecurity vulnerabilities in medical devices. Faculty and students are hacking into the technologies to find cybersecurity shortfalls. Devices like infusion pumps have been donated to the research effort from hospital surplus as well as from Phillips.

People rely on experts to improve their health at the hospital. Part of this includes using medical devices. However, those devices could have vulnerabilities. 

"They've [hospitals] started connecting these devices to networks. So, now they're similar to internet of things devices." said Michael Nowatkowski, Associate Professor. 

Nowatkowski says the risk lies in the connection.

"If you are able to spoof a response back to the medical device, you could get it to talk to you potentially instead of the actual health record the device intends to talk to."

Nowatkowski says that could make hospitals an easier target for ransomware attacks.

"The hospitals normally want to recover quickly from that. So, they're maybe more willing than other industries to pay the ransom to become operational again."

AU wants to help. Research is underway to help improve security for devices like these. This is being accomplished through hacking in order to find those vulnerabilities. 

"We've had some undergraduate students who have looked at various aspects from the hardware side, to the policy side – and now I have two students who are working at the networking side looking at the communications from the devices to an electronic health record."

Nowatkowski feels it's valuable information for hospitals.

"It's important for them to understand that there are these vulnerabilities with these devices and to try to protect their networks against potential attacks."

In addition to providing information to manufacturers and hospitals, this is also work to benefit you. 

"The biggest factor is protecting the patient and receiving the best healthcare possible." said Nowatkowski.

Next, AU plans to look at devices that go home with patients, such as blood glucose monitors. Nowatkowski says they will determine if these can bring malware back into hospitals.

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