Medical Devices Susceptible to Hackers - 8 News NOW

Medical Devices Susceptible to Hackers

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LAS VEGAS - People with medical conditions already have enough to worry about. Now, they can add computer hackers to their list of problems.

Jay Radcliffe is a security researcher, but he's also diabetic. 

"In the future, I see hardware hacking with medical devices," he said. "If somebody gets hurt through a medical device being tampered with and potentially dying, it raises the stakes a bit. If one person were to be harmed, it would be a very big deal. It would be front page news everywhere."

"It's very important to me. I need it. I wear an insulin pump 24 hours a day, seven days a week," he said.

During the Black Hat Digital Security Conference at Caesars Palace Thursday, Radcliffe identified flaws that could allow an attacker to remotely control insulin pumps and alter readouts of blood-sugar monitors.

"If you start adjusting that, you can adjust a person's chemistry, a person's body chemistry," he said. "If a person's blood sugar gets too low, their body starts to shut down. They can go into a coma. They can get respiratory failure, and people have even died from hypoglycemia."

Radcliffe says he's only experimented on his own equipment and hopes manufacturers learn from his discoveries. Experts say the threat of attackers accessing medical devices goes beyond insulin pumps.

Brad Smith, a private R.N., says pacemakers, medical records, or any electronic medical device is vulnerable to hackers.

"The medical people like to connect in remotely, read the records, change the pump, change your pacemaker, and they're not aware," he said. "Those that are aware don't want to talk about it, that these are vulnerabilities in the field."

While the threat right now is minimal, Smith says few safeguards are in place to prevent the risks from growing.

"Currently, there is no federal agency, no oversight in the security of the wireless medical devices out there," he said.

Few studies have been done on the vulnerability of medical devices to hacking attacks. Industry representatives downplay the potential threat.

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