Pacemakers And Other Wireless Medical Devices Could Be Vulnerable To Hackers

pacemaker device

Sept. 27 (Bloomberg) — Wireless medical devices are potentially vulnerable to being remotely controlled by hackers and should come under greater government oversight, according to a Government Accountability Office report.

“Even the human body is vulnerable to attack from computer hackers,” Representative Anna Eshoo, a Democrat from California, said in a statement. “Implantable medical devices have resulted in tremendous medical benefits for the patients who use them, but the demonstrated security risks require a renewed emphasis by the FDA and manufacturers to identify, evaluate and plug the potentially rare but serious security holes that exist in these devices.”

Eshoo, along with Democratic Representatives Edward Markey and Donna Edwards, had asked last year for the requested the report, which called on the Food and Drug Administration to oversee better identification and investigation of security problems in electronic medical equipment such as insulin pumps, pacemakers and defibrillators.

The report on medical-device safety was initiated after computer-security researchers found dangerous vulnerabilities in insulin pumps. Diabetics rely on the pumps, which are worn next to the skin, to dispense insulin, a lifesaving hormone.

Two researchers — Jay Radcliffe and Barnaby Jack, who worked separately — demonstrated ways to manipulate the wireless capabilities on devices made by Minneapolis-based Medtronic Inc. to remotely take over the pumps and dispense fatal doses of insulin.

An earlier study, in 2008, from a consortium of academics found that at a popular pacemaker-defibrillator could be reprogrammed to deliver deadly shocks.

Michelle Bolek, a spokeswoman for the FDA, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

–Editors: Reed Stevenson, John Lear

 

To contact the reporter on this story: Jordan Robertson in San Francisco at [email protected]

 

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tom Giles at [email protected]

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