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Brett Emison
Brett Emison
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Did You Know… Insulin Pumps Can be Hacked?

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In an odd mixture of science fiction and medical terror, it has been publicized recently that insulin pumps can be hacked through currently available technology. Living with diabetes and an insulin pump is hard enough, but can be managed and integrated into daily life. However, fear of a criminal or disturbed individual hacking into that pump and putting insulin levels at lethal dosages is not something anybody wants to consider.

A security researcher who is diabetic has identified flaws that could allow an attacker to remotely control insulin pumps and alter the readouts of blood-sugar monitors. As a result, diabetics could get too much or too little insulin, a hormone they need for proper metabolism.

Jay Radcliffe, a diabetic who experimented on his own equipment, shared his findings with The Associated Press before releasing them at a Black Hat computer security conference in Las Vegas.

"My initial reaction was that this was really cool from a technical perspective," Radcliffe said. "The second reaction was one of maybe sheer terror, to know that there’s no security around the devices which are a very active part of keeping me alive." – Jay Radcliffe to the Associated Press

Increasingly, medical devices such as pacemakers, operating room monitors and surgical instruments including deep-brain stimulators are being made with the ability to transmit vital health information from a patient’s body to doctors and other professionals. Some devices can be remotely controlled by medical professionals.

The hacking fears come on top of human errors and technical glitches tied to medical devices. "It would only take one person to do this to kill someone and then you have a catastrophe," Radcliffe said.

The most worrisome part, with a powerful enough antenna a hacker could potentially launch such an attack from up to half a mile away. The method has not been effective as yet, but anyone with an insulin pump should be on the watch for future news and take heed.

(c) Copyright 2011 Brett A. Emison