Medical Monitors: New Domain for Hackers?

Diabetic shows how devices can be manipulated
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 5, 2011 3:27 PM CDT
Jay Radcliffe, who wrote a program to attack an insulin pump, is pictured at the annual Black Hat conference Thursday in Las Vegas.   (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)
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(Newser) – Even the human bloodstream isn't safe from computer hackers—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, released his findings at the Black Hat computer security conference in Las Vegas.

"My initial reaction was that this was really cool from a technical perspective," Radcliffe tells AP. "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." Increasingly, medical devices such as pacemakers, operating room monitors, and surgical instruments are being made with the ability to transmit vital health information from a patient's body to doctors and other professionals. Medical device makers downplay the threat from such attacks—arguing that the demonstrated attacks have been performed by skilled security researchers and are unlikely to occur in the real world.

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