Software Update Site For Hospital Respirators Found Riddled With Malware

UPDATE: A Web site used to distribute software updates for a wide range medical equipment, including ventilators has been blocked by Google after it was found to be riddled with malware and serving up attacks. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is looking into the compromise, Threatpost has learned. 

UPDATE: A Web site used to distribute software updates for a wide range medical equipment, including ventilators has been blocked by Google after it was found to be riddled with malware and serving up attacks. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is looking into the compromise, Threatpost has learned. 

The site belongs to San Diego-based CareFusion Inc., a hospital equipment supplier. The infected Web sites, which use a number of different domains, distribute firmware updates for a range of ventilators and respiratory products. Scans by Google’s Safe Browsing program in May and June found the sites were rife with malware. For example, about six percent of the 347 Web pages hosted at, a CareFusion Web site that is used to distribute software updates for the company’s AVEA brand ventilators, were found to be infected and pushing malicious software to visitors’ systems.

The software downloaded from included 48 separate Trojan horse programs and two scripting exploits, according to a review of the Google Safe Browsing report by Threatpost. Another domain,, which supports CareFusion’s VELA brand ventilators, was also found to be serving “content that resulted in malicious software being downloaded and installed without user consent,” according to a June 13 scan by Google’s Safe Browsing crawler.

A CareFusion did not respond to a request for comment spokeswoman said the company is “looking into the matter” and has removed the software updates from its website in the meantime. 

The company makes a range of hospital equipment including the Alaris-brand infusion pumps and AVEA, AirLife and LTV series ventilation and respiratory products. CareFusion employs 14,000 people worldwide reported revenue of $2.63 billion for the first nine months of its fiscal year. 

After being contacted by Threatpost on Thursday, CareFusion removed links to the infected Web sites hosting software updates for the respirators from its Product Support page. However, the company still offered links for parts and supplies for CareFusion’s 3100A High Frequency Oscillatory Ventilator (HFOV) and LTV series ventilators that were likewise infected, according to Google.

The infections first caught the attention of Kevin Fu, a professor and security researcher at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst who is a recognized expert in the security of medical devices. Fu discovered the infections when trying to download an update for the AVEA ventilators. Fu said the infections pose a major risk for hospitals that use CareFusion products.

“Vendors routinely install software updates for medical devices from the Internet or USB keys. I’ve seen medical sales engineers download pacemaker-related software from the Internet,” he wrote on his blog, Medical Device Security Center.

Fu notes that CareFusion advises customers to simply “click run” when the “file download security warning” dialog box appears – potentially tragic advice on a Web site that is serving up malicious programs such as Trojan horse programs.

Fu said an e-mail sent to an e-mail address “” bounced back. He reported the incident to the U.S. Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) but that the agency lacks a way to track and respond to cyber security reports for medical devices. “The reports get mixed in with general adverse event reports, and incidents with known injuries or deaths usually receive more swift attention,” Fu wrote.

Little is known about the source of the infections at CareFusion. However, an analysis by the Department of Homeland Security found that some of CareFusion’s Web sites were relying on six year old versions of ASP.NET and Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS) version 6.0, which was released with Windows Server 2003. Both platforms are highly susceptible to compromise. DHS is continuing to investigate the incident and may refer it to its ICS-CERT division, which focuses on threats to critical infrastructure.

It is also unclear whether the attackers knew that the compromised sites hosted software for running life-saving medical devices. Attacks that leverage legitimate Web sites are common online. Recent months have brought reports of prominent Web sites and hosting firms that were hacked and reconfigured to serve up malicious programs. In April, Google warned 20,000 Webmasters about sites that may be compromised and redirecting visitors to malicious Web sites

Fu said the warnings from Google should give CareFusion’s many customers pause before downloading updates from the company’s Web sites.

“I find it difficult to establish trust in the safety of software affiliated with reports of “malicious software being downloaded and installed without user consent.”


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  • Anonymous on

    Hope they wont infect my respirator and kill me.
  • Anonymous on

    Alas, my first reaction was: at least they didn't hit dialyser firmware.

  • Anonymous on

    Why was Fu trying to email instead of the admin/tech contact listed in their whois record and/or their host?  Compliance with RFC2142 tends to be patchy and "security" is not a required address unless the owner is providing internet service to third parties.

  • f0real on

    Was the malware just general crimeware or more specific and unique in nature?

    What were the detection names of the malware found on the site?

  • Anonymous on

    Agreed ^^ more details please. 


  • Paul Sherman on

    Most medical equipment that directly touches patients run proprietary embedded operating systems.  Since the malware affected MS based software, it's pretty much impossible for it to directly affected the ventilators or infusion pumps.  They, quite simply speak different languages.  It would be like someone cursing in English to someone that only speaks Swahili. 

    Any succesful crack into the equipment would have required someone with an intimate knowledge of the medical equipment OS.  Typically a far higher level of expertise and education than non-government crackers and malware creators have.

  • Paul Sherman on

    A follow-up:

    One VERY large healthcare system has already entered panic mode, despite some proof that this will not affect the ventilators themselves.

    I'm concerned that this has drifted into the realm of someone yelling 'fire' in a crowded theater.

  • Albuhidioli on

    Brought to you by me, nice article ;)
  • Anonymous on

    I would suggest that all organisations using remote access to computerised systems in the delivery of healthcare to patients should follow procedures laid down in International Standards Organisation standard, ISO:27799  Health informatics -- Information security management in health using ISO/IEC 27002 . This can help organisations develop a risk assessment strategy which could eliminate these types of serious security breaches.

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