CYBERSAFE PARENT: Hackers can target medical equipment

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The technology we use every day is at risk of being attacked by hackers. 

Computerized medical equipment… whether it’s in your home, hospital, or implanted inside you could also be a target.

“Insulin pumps, defibrillators, pacemakers. I actually have one myself- a defibrillator- and those are also wireless devices. They’re computers, and those, therefore, are hackable,” says SueAnne Griffith, a Research Engineer at UAH. 

So what could happen if someone were to actually break into a device? 

Griffith says, “You could read all of my history on the device. You could see battery status, things like that.”

But, things could even turn deadly. 

“They could also trigger the device to go off.. So to deliver a shock.” 

There haven’t been any documented cyber attacks on personal medical devices by hackers. But, researchers are aware of the threat. They perform controlled tests to measure the vulnerability of medical devices, and find that some can be hacked. 

“They have, in labs, been able to access those devices remotely,” Griffith points out. 

Because these devices are closely monitored by health officials, they’re specially encrypted. This worries patients who are concerned about just who can access their health information. 

Griffith says “With your cell phone, your laptop, you can set your own password, you can encrypt it. You have more control. Whereas with defibrillators, pacemakers… sometimes you need it to stay alive you’re not the one setting up any of that stuff. You just kind of have to trust. And I think that makes people nervous more than anything.”  

There’s always the possibility of hacking, but the chances are extremely low. Experts advise patients not to worry and to continue using their devices. Remember to never alter your medication or health practices without consulting a doctor. 

Griffith says, “There are a lot of good studies out there that doctors can reference before they recommend a specific device. It’s definitely more important to your health to keep using it than to not, out of fear.” 

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