UPDATE: Could a medical device be used to cyberassassinate?

Masked hacker

At least one Medtronic Inc. (NYSE:MDT) insulin pump has software vulnerabilities that could make it a target for malicious hacks and other models may also be at risk, according to software security giant McAfee.

The McAfee team developed code that allowed it to take over the insulin pump, altering its programming and even administering potentially lethal doses from as much as 300 feet away.

While malicious hacks on medical devices have never occurred outside of research settings, the tactic could be used as a new type of cyber weapon, McAfee researchers found.

Medtronic hired Symantec and other tech security firms to investigate its insulin pumps after security experts began questioning vulnerabilities exposed during a security conference in Las Vegas this summer, Reuters reported.

Medtronic spokesperson Steve Cragle told MassDevice that the company is rolling out a concerted push to confront and solve the issue.

"We’re in the process of spotlighting this update on our Medtronicdiabetes.com website, as well as on our diabetes-specific site and have been in communication with the diabetes community through social media channels since this issue was first raised," Cragle told us in an email. "We have also been directly briefing key diabetes advocacy organizations and influencers."

The world’s largest pure-play device maker told us that it’s taken a number of steps to combat the potential for hackers to hijack wireless devices.

"Medtronic takes patient safety and device security very seriously and we appreciate the security community bringing new information on the possibility of a cyber-attack on our insulin pumps," according to an emailed statement. "We have been increasing our focus on the prevention of tampering with our products and look forward to partnering with the security, healthcare and diabetes communities to develop ways to better protect patients from the risk of tampering, which is necessary to keep pace with a new and rapidly evolving technology landscape."
The steps Medtronic has taken on the issue include an in-depth risk/benefit analysis "to clearly assess the potential risk," assessing encryption and security technologies with an eye toward integrating them into its pipeline and "committing to establish an industry working group that engages relevant stakeholders from the diabetes, healthcare and security community to develop new approaches and best practices to device security," according to the email.

"Because insulin pumps are widely used by patients with diabetes for tight blood sugar control and lifestyle flexibility, we are also working to assure both patients and doctors that at this time we believe that the risk is low and the benefits of the therapy outweigh the risk of an individual criminal attack," the company said.  

The issue made headlines over the summer after a diabetic IBM security analyst, Jay Radcliffe, demonstrated a hack on his own insulin pump during a presentation at the 2011 Black Hat computer security conference in August.

"My initial reaction was that this was really cool from a technical perspective," Radcliffe told reporters. "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."

RSS From Medical Design & Outsourcing

  • GlobTek presents its latest level VI AC/DC adapter and connverter
    T-43086-WWVV-X.X-Q Model is an addition to GlobTek’s Level VI compliant GT-43086 family and represents GlobTek’s 6 Watt wall plug-in series of AC/DC adapters (power supplies and chargers) with International Interchangeable blades. GlobTek’s changeable input blade system with individual field replaceable input plugs, including: North America and Japan NEMA 1-15P, Australian, UK BS 1363, European CEE […]
  • Sanmina’s familiarity with FDA gets skin treatment product to market fast
    The medical market for cosmetic devices is booming. However, quickly launching new products to meet demand is becoming more challenging because device manufactures face increased regulatory scrutiny. To help meet regulatory requirements, aesthetic and other medical-device OEMs are partnering with electronics manufacturing services (EMS) companies that also offer expertise with the FDA filings necessary to […]
  • Fluid connectors and quick disconnects for IVD equipment from CPC
    Colder Products Company (CPC) offers thousands of tubing connectors, quick disconnects and fittings for smart fluid handling in IVD and analytical equipment. Non-spill connectors speed testing throughput by eliminating drips, preventing air inclusion and increasing operator safety. Panel mount connectors can be added to existing equipment or bottle caps to provide secure, leak-free connections. Puncture […]
  • 310 Watt desktop medical power supply meets efficiency level VI requirements
    Power Partners releases a new 310 Watt medical grade desktop power supply from their PEAMD Series of AC and DC adapters. The 310 Watt unit is packed for ideal performance inside a compact case measuring 7.8 x 4 x 2 in. with a weight of only 3 lbs. The PEAMD310 Series is approved to the latest […]
  • Saelig introduces Multiple Instrument System MIS4 universal test system
    Saelig Company has introduced the ABI Electronics’ Multiple Instrument Station MIS4, an all-in-one testing tool that provides all commonly required test instruments in one compact programmable hardware module, mounted in a compact case or installed in a PC-drive bay. Controlled by ABI’s sophisticated SYSTEM 8 Ultimate PC software with a simple yet programmable operator interface, […]
  • AssurX announces document management software update for small to mid-size companies in FDA regulated industries
    AssurX, an enterprise quality management, risk and regulatory compliance solution provider, announces the release of the latest update to their AssurX document management software. The document management solution provides a cost-effective solution for small to medium sized companies faced with streamlined operations and is fully compliant for FDA regulated industries. Ideal solution for small to […]
  • Saelig presents new Amplicon Impact-R 1100F series computer
    Saelig Company announces the Amplicon Impact-R 1100F series, a fanless system powered by the Intel ATOM D2550 processor. Configured with a high performance 2.5 in. MLC Solid State Drive (SSD), the Impact-R 1100F series is a silent controller system. With options for multiple serial communication ports, the Impact-R 1100F can offer up seven DB9 connections […]
  • Gerresheimer to acquire Centor
    Gerresheimer AG, a partner to the global pharmacy and healthcare industry, will further extend its pharmaceutical packaging business with the acquisition of Centor. Gerresheimer has reached an agreement with Nemera Development S.A. to acquire 100% of the share capital of Centor US Holding. “Centor is the highly profitable market leader for plastic vials and closures in […]
  • Methods Machine Tools presents the new Nakamura-Tome NTRX-300
    Methods Machine Tools, a developer of precision machine tools and automation, has introduced the new Nakamura-Tome NTRX-300, a multitasking turning center featuring complete parts machining in one operation, with a built-in load and unload automation system and advanced operator recognition management software. The NTRX-300 features true opposing twin spindles: an 8 in. A2-6 25 HP or […]
  • MSC Apex Diamond Python and Smart Midsurface speeds modeling to validation
    MSC Software announced a new release of MSC Apex, the company’s award-winning next generation Computer Aided Engineering (CAE) platform. The MSC Apex Diamond Python release introduces: · The fourth release of MSC Apex Modeler is a CAE Specific direct modeling and meshing solution that streamlines CAD clean-up, simplification and meshing workflow. New in this release is […]
  • Quality Metrics: FDA’s plan for a key set of measurements to help ensure manufacturers are producing quality medications
    Editor’s Note: This article is written by Ashley Boam and Mary Malarkey from the “FDA Voice” blog. Boam is an FDA’s acting Director of the Office of Policy for Pharmaceutical Quality, the Office of Pharmaceutical Quality and the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. Malarkey is an FDA’s Director if the Office of Compliance and Biologics Quality […]

Leave a Reply