What is Medjacking?


Welcome back to Blue Goat Blogs, where we simplify the world of cybersecurity! Today, we’re zooming in on Medjacking – a cyber threat that’s not just about data but directly impacts human lives. Let’s delve into what Medjacking is, examine some alarming real-world scenarios, and understand the FDA’s evolving response to this threat.

Medjacking Defined

Medjacking, a portmanteau of ‘medical’ and ‘hijacking,’ is a cyberattack targeting medical devices. These devices range from bedside monitors to advanced surgical robots, all interconnected in today’s digital healthcare infrastructure. The goal? It could be anything from data theft and ransomware to malicious interference with device operations.

Why Are Medical Devices Targeted?

  1. Valuable Data: Medical devices store heaps of sensitive patient data – a goldmine for identity thieves.
  2. Vulnerability: Often, these devices run on outdated software or lack robust security measures, making them easy targets.
  3. High Stakes: The critical nature of these devices means hospitals are more likely to pay ransoms quickly.

Real-World Incidents of Medjacking

Medjacking, though a relatively new term in the cybersecurity lexicon, has already made a significant impact in the healthcare industry with several alarming incidents:

  1. Infusion Pump Vulnerability: In one notable case, security researcher Billy Rios wrote a program capable of forcing multiple pumps to administer potentially lethal drug doses to hospital patients. This instance highlighted the dire consequences of medjacking, where cybercriminals could use similar programs to create panic or demand ransoms by threatening patient safety.
  2. Insulin Pump Hacking: Jay Radcliffe, another security researcher, demonstrated the ability to hack an insulin pump using a standard radio transmitter. This example highlighted the ease with which critical medical devices could be compromised, posing severe risks to patients relying on them for their health and well-being.
  3. Hospital Systems Targeted: A report by the cybersecurity firm TrapX noted that hackers had targeted at least three hospital systems. Medical devices like surgical blood gas analyzers and X-ray systems were infected with malware in these instances. These devices then served as backdoors for hackers to access hospital IT systems, leak sensitive information, and manipulate unencrypted data stored inside the devices.
  4. Potential for Direct Patient Harm: While there have been no reported cases of direct harm to patients due to medjacking, experts warn that scenarios like hacked insulin pumps delivering fatal doses or defibrillators failing to operate correctly are plausible and pose significant risks.
  5. Medjacking of Respirators and Anesthesia Machines: A vulnerability discovered in General Electric respirators and anesthesia machines demonstrated the risk of medical device hijacking. This vulnerability, easily exploitable according to the US Department of Homeland Security, had not been corrected by GE at the time of discovery.

These real-world examples illustrate the critical need for heightened security measures in medical devices. They underscore the potential for grave consequences if these devices are compromised through data breaches or direct interference with their medical functions. Medjacking not only threatens the confidentiality and integrity of patient data but also poses a real risk to patient safety. As such, it is an urgent call to action for healthcare providers, device manufacturers, and regulatory bodies to collaborate and fortify the cybersecurity of medical devices.

The FDA’s Comprehensive Response to Medjacking

The FDA, recognizing the severity of these threats, has taken a multifaceted approach to bolster medical device cybersecurity.

Enhanced Pre-market Guidelines:

  • Rigorous Testing Requirements: Mandating thorough cybersecurity testing before devices hit the market.
  • Cybersecurity Documentation: Requiring comprehensive documentation of all potential vulnerabilities and mitigation strategies.

Robust Post-market Actions:

  • Regular Software Updates and Patches: Enforcing a regime of continuous software updates to address new vulnerabilities.
  • Incident Response Plans: Requiring manufacturers to have robust plans to respond to cybersecurity incidents rapidly.
  • Public Awareness: Increasing public awareness about the potential cybersecurity risks associated with medical devices.

Collaborative Efforts:

  • Partnerships with Cybersecurity Firms: Encouraging alliances with firms specializing in medical device security.
  • Global Coordination: Working with international regulatory bodies to develop global standards for medical device cybersecurity.

The Role of Penetration Testing

This is where penetration testing, a specialty of Blue Goat Cyber, becomes invaluable. Penetration testing involves ethical hackers simulating cyberattacks to identify and fix vulnerabilities before real hackers can exploit them.

Benefits of Penetration Testing in Medical Device Security:

  1. Identifying Weaknesses: Testers can find and report backdoor vulnerabilities before a hacker can.
  2. Regulatory Compliance: Helps manufacturers adhere to FDA guidelines and avoid hefty fines.
  3. Patient Trust and Safety: Ensures the safety and reliability of devices, fostering patient trust in their medical care.

Practical Tips for Medical Device Manufacturers:

  1. Regular Penetration Testing: Engage in routine testing to stay ahead of emerging threats.
  2. Collaborate with Security Experts: Work with cybersecurity firms like Blue Goat Cyber for specialized insights.
  3. Educate and Train Staff: Regularly train staff on cybersecurity best practices.


Medjacking presents a critical challenge at the intersection of healthcare and cybersecurity. The FDA’s proactive measures, increased awareness, and robust security practices are key to defending against these threats. As we continue to rely more on advanced medical technology, the importance of safeguarding these innovations from cyber threats cannot be overstated.

Stay tuned to Blue Goat Blogs for more insights into the dynamic world of cybersecurity, where we break down complex issues into understandable narratives.

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