Will IoT Get Us Through the COVID-19 Pandemic?

We’re living in extraordinary times; the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing restrictions on our personal and work lives have forced us into an unprecedented existence. And while most of the news on this front is scary (and rightfully so), there is a bright spot: technology is helping to pave the path through this crisis.

From telehealth to at-home monitoring devices, new IoT innovations
developed in this pandemic are transforming the way we approach—and
treat—today’s public health catastrophe while also preparing us for the future.

Experts have estimated
there will be 31 million IoT devices by the end of 2020. This proliferation of
internet-connected devices help protect our homes,
keep us organized and even monitor endangered wildlife.  And now, they’re helping inform experts and
laypeople alike on the novel coronavirus.
 

In an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19, health
officials are encouraging
patients to “connect remotely via an app to a doctor who can triage their
symptoms while they’re still at home.” One such app, called MaNaDr, allows patients in Singapore to
check in with their healthcare providers regularly and report on their
symptoms; if they’re worsening, the doctor can then order an ambulance.

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In order to scale critical
ICU nursing resources during the outbreak in Wuhan, China, a field hospital was
staffed primarily with IoT robots to clean, disinfect, deliver medicines and
take patients’ temperatures in the hospital. Hospital administrators indicated
that the robots both better scaled nursing resources for critical care as well
as lessened the transmission of the virus to hospital staff. 

And in the U.S., the renowned Mayo Clinic is reportedly
in talks with “makers of remote monitoring tools about ways to keep closer tabs
on patients with COVID-19 who don’t require intensive care.”

Similarly, to keep non-COVID patients healthy at home, TIME reports
that other IoT devices measure “health metrics like temperature, blood pressure
and blood sugar several times a day, and the results are automatically stored
on the cloud, from which doctors get alerts if the readings are abnormal.” 

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Beyond collecting individual health stats, IoT devices are
tracking community-level data, which in turn is used to better understand the
evolution of the virus. Per TIME,
“retail drugstores track inventory and sales of nonprescription fever reducers,
for example, and any trends in those data might serve as an early, albeit
crude, harbinger of growing spread of disease in a community. And given the
proliferation of health–tracking apps on smartphones, analyzing data trends
like a rise in average body temperature in a given geographical area could
provide clues to emerging clusters of cases.”

Case in point: the “U.S. health weather map”
powered by Kinsa Insights provides a visualization of aggregated data on fevers
and flu-like illnesses. Healthcare providers can then use the maps to identify
areas where there are spikes in illness and gauge whether measures are
successfully helping to slow the spread of COVID-19 in other areas.  

When you consider how much more we are relying on connected
devices to help battle this pandemic, and how much personal, sensitive data is
collected in the process, security must be top of mind. There are both
privacy and security issues that will need to be discussed in the long term
with regards to what and how much personal data about your health and physical
location is medically necessary for global health organizations to track and
effectively fight a pandemic. 

But even that aside, the pace of IoT innovation in
telehealth to fight a pandemic—that fundamentally requires a reduction in
person-to-person contact—means that companies are launching innovation before
security strategies…sometimes even before the technology is ready. Past history
has shown that exactly these types of fortuitous circumstances are when hackers
strike.

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As unfortunate as it is, hackers won’t stop committing cyber
crimes just because there is a global crisis. Indeed, we’re seeing
multiple reports of phishing, ransomware attacks and other threats, as
criminals exploit the public’s fear and take advantage of widespread strains on
critical infrastructures.

Now, more than ever, it’s crucial that health and government
officials move to secure their systems –their websites, clouds, telehealth
apps, electronic health records, etc. – that devices (and their data) connect
to. While this is admittedly a daunting task as we roll out these new
innovations to meet the crisis, the good news is that security experts exist
for this very reason and ought to be utilized; after all, hospitals have more
than enough to worry about right now.

Read Radware’s “2019-2020 Global Application & Network Security Report” to learn more.

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*** This is a Security Bloggers Network syndicated blog from Radware Blog authored by Mike O'Malley. Read the original post at: https://blog.radware.com/serviceprovider/2020/04/will-iot-get-us-through-the-covid-19-pandemic/