Researchers pair medical devices with blockchain to defend against cyberattacks

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Researchers from Emporia State University in the U.S. and University of Allahabad in India recently developed a novel blockchain system for medical device monitoring. 

According to the team, the new system, dubbed HNMBlock, has the potential to revolutionize the medical industry with benefits ranging from “enabling swift responses to disease outbreaks” to “encouraging patient involvement and data-informed decision-making.”

HNMBlock is a server-based blockchain network designed to marry internet-of-things (IoT) devices used by the medical industry, such as air quality sensors, with secure data storage and retrieval.

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Image source: Kshetri, et. al., 2024.

“The integration of blockchain technology (HNMblock model) with medical devices for medical systems security coupled the strategic application and emerges as a powerful paradigm. This model serves as a guide for medical partners offering blockchain nodes as the backbone framework to navigate healthcare cybersecurity.”

Per the paper, this model can expand to include token-based patient participation incentives, decentralized, encrypted file security, and real-time device monitoring.

Security in the medical field has become increasingly scrutinized since the 2017 “WannaCry” attacks which affected tens of thousands of patients and hundreds of thousands of files across the U.K.s National Health Services.

However, the researchers identified numerous remaining vulnerabilities. As they put it:

“Today, smart healthcare systems rely on interconnected devices, electronic health records (EHRs), and telemedicine solutions. These systems are susceptible to cyber-attacks that compromise patient data, disrupt critical healthcare services, and even manipulate medical records.”

Their research indicates that blockchain can serve as a paradigm-changing tool to shore up security and patient privacy while adding in the power of smart contracts — something which, in the U.S., for example, could help patient care providers deal with patient data while maintaining standards under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.

“Some of the common cyber threats facing healthcare systems,” write the researchers, “include replay attacks, crypto-malware, ransomware, others malware, denial-of-service (DoS), data breaches, and phishing.”

The use of blockchain technology to secure data and enable smart contracts in the medical industry has taken off in recent years with projects such as Akiri and BurstIQ both utilizing blockchain technology for medical data management.