med device hack

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Decoded: Hack-able Implanted Medical Devices

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med device hack

The Food and Drug Administration recently tightened medical device standards after two security analysts hacked more than 300 devices used in hospitals, guessing passwords for anesthesia devices, patient monitors and lab analysis tools, according to The Washington Post. The FDA will soon be able to block device approval if manufacturers don’t provide a cyber security plan.

Most patients are prescribed remotely controlled devices, which allow their doctors to use wireless systems to both extract diagnostic data and alter allocations and dosages. Moreover, most devices include a USB or plug-in that can be easily accessed by anyone with the right gadgets, according to Healthcare IT News.

There’s no evidence that hackers have ever targeted hospital networks or medical devices, but these devices are controlled wirelessly and could be vulnerable, officials say.

1. Insulin pump – This one tops the list as some security specialists found that insulin pumps were very easy to hack and could cause some of the most intense damage with little effort. Hackers can potentially alter the insulin levels set in patients’ pumps through wireless networks, and deliver much more or much less insulin than a patient requires.

2. Pacemaker – Experts say that it doesn’t take many complicated calculations to improve the security of a pacemaker, a small device implanted in the chest or abdomen that a cardiologist can program externally and select the optimum pace for a person’s heart to beat. But for financial and technical reasons, pacemaker manufacturers are still slow to do so.

3. Implantable cardioverter-defibrilator (ICD)– Defibrillators are less common than insulin pumps or pacemakers, but similarly easy to access without actually ever coming in contact with the hacker. ICDs are implanted in patients at risk for sudden cardiac death and can be programmed to detect an arrhythmia and deliver an electrical shock.

4. Programmable Vasectomy – A silicone polymer valve fits snugly in the vas deferens and can flip from open to closed via a wireless controller, and is vulnerable to hackers, according to Avi Rubin of the Health and Medical Security Lab at Johns Hopkins University.

5. Neurostimulator – Also called Implanted Pulse Generators, these are batteries that can deliver a pulse to the nervous system, used to treat neurological disorders and neuropathic pain.

6. Bionic Vision System- Light sensing implants in the retinas of vision-impaired patients receive data captured by small glasses-mounted cameras and processed by a mini-computer.

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