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FDA outlines cybersecurity recommendations for medical device manufacturers

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued a draft guidance outlining important steps medical device manufacturers should take to continually address cybersecurity risks to keep patients safe and better protect the public health. The draft guidance details the agency’s recommendations for monitoring, identifying and addressing cybersecurity vulnerabilities in medical devices once they have entered the market. The draft guidance is part of the FDA’s ongoing efforts to ensure the safety and effectiveness of medical devices, at all stages in their lifecycle, in the face of potential cyber threats.

Cybersecurity threats to medical devices are a growing concern. The exploitation of cybersecurity vulnerabilities presents a potential risk to the safety and effectiveness of medical devices. While manufacturers can incorporate controls in the design of a product to help prevent these risks, it is essential that manufacturers also consider improvements during maintenance of devices, as the evolving nature of cyber threats means risks may arise throughout a device’s entire lifecycle.

“All medical devices that use software and are connected to hospital and health care organizations’ networks have vulnerabilities – some we can proactively protect against, while others require vigilant monitoring and timely remediation,” said Suzanne Schwartz, M.D., M.B.A., associate director for science and strategic partnerships and acting director of emergency preparedness/operations and medical countermeasures in the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. “Today’s draft guidance will build on the FDA’s existing efforts to safeguard patients from cyber threats by recommending medical device manufacturers continue to monitor and address cybersecurity issues while their product is on the market.”

Today’s draft guidance outlines postmarket recommendations for medical device manufacturers, including the need to proactively plan for and to assess cybersecurity vulnerabilities – consistent with the FDA’s Quality System Regulation. It also addresses the importance of information sharing via participation in an Information Sharing Analysis Organization (ISAO), a collaborative group in which public and private-sector members share cybersecurity information. The draft guidance recommends that manufacturers should implement a structured and systematic comprehensive cybersecurity risk management program and respond in a timely fashion to identified vulnerabilities. Critical components of such a program should include:

  • Applying the 2014 NIST voluntary Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity, which includes the core principles of “Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond and Recover;”
  • Monitoring cybersecurity information sources for identification and detection of cybersecurity vulnerabilities and risk;
  • Understanding, assessing and detecting presence and impact of a vulnerability;
  • Establishing and communicating processes for vulnerability intake and handling;
  • Clearly defining essential clinical performance to develop mitigations that protect, respond and recover from the cybersecurity risk;
  • Adopting a coordinated vulnerability disclosure policy and practice; and
  • Deploying mitigations that address cybersecurity risk early and prior to exploitation.