U of M, along with manufacturers, launches Center for Medical Device Cybersecurity

The University of Minnesota announced that it was launching a new Center for Medical Device Cybersecurity aimed at fostering collaborations among university, industry and government representatives.  

According to the university, the center will function as a hub for discovery, outreach and workforce training around device security and potential threats.  

"I'm excited about how this new innovative center will enhance the security of our state's thriving medtech sector and beyond," said University of Minnesota president Joan Gabel in a statement.  

WHY IT MATTERS  

A large part of the center's funding comes from five major device manufacturers: Boston Scientific, Smiths Medical, Optum, Medtronic and Abbott Laboratories.  

In addition to the founding corporations, additional industry representatives will be actively recruited to the center steering committee over the next two years.  

"Cybersecurity for medical devices is critical in retaining the trust consumers place in healthcare companies for how the technology is used, and how health information is protected," said Allison Miller, chief information security officer for Optum, in a statement.  

"By partnering with academic organizations, industry experts, and our peers, we can help formulate policies, regulatory proposals and state-of-the-art testing, so that we not only support the long-term success of secure medical devices, but also protect the patients who rely on medical devices for their care therapies," Miller added.  

The university says the center – housed within the interdisciplinary Technological Leadership Institute – will focus on developing new research, technologies, education and training to address potential cybersecurity threats.   

The University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering, the Earl E. Bakken Medical Devices Center and the office of the vice president for research will all function as on-campus collaborators.  

In its first year, the center will host roundtables and a hackathon; organize networking and training opportunities; establish a medical device cybersecurity short course to launch this autumn; and develop a medical device cybersecurity summer internship program.  

"While manufacturers can ensure a high-level of safety through testing, the security of connected-devices remains a growing and moving target, making this collaboration and the work of the CMDC critical to the industry and all those it serves," said TLI director Allison Hubel in a statement.  

THE LARGER TREND  

As care moves beyond the confines of a clinic or hospital room, security experts have emphasized the importance of safeguarding all endpoints, including connected medical devices.  

"Even before COVID-19, we started seeing a lot more endpoint devices in healthcare, specifically around wearable medical technology, handheld devices [and] medical apps on cell phones and iPads," said Heather Roszkowski, assistant vice president of cyber defense and enterprise chief information security officer for Augusta University, during a HIMSS Security Basics segment recorded this past year.  

But endpoint protection, on its own, is not enough: Security professionals say it must be paired with network monitoring and anomaly detection.  

ON THE RECORD  

"We are ecstatic to work closely with the medical device manufacturers and healthcare delivery industries to help fuel innovation and discovery in this space," said interim director Katy Pelican, of University of Minnesota. 

"Through the establishment of the Center for Medical Device Cybersecurity, the university is poised to develop future workforce leaders and conduct cutting-edge research that will elevate the entire industry in this vitally important and expanding space," she said.

 

Kat Jercich is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Twitter: @kjercich
Email: [email protected]
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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