The US Food and Drug Administration has this month warned medical device manufacturers that their products could be vulnerable to cyber attacks, claiming that the actions of hackers could have potentially fatal consequences.
The advice comes after regulators learned of cyber security vulnerabilities that could impact medical devices as well as the environments they’re being used in.
Officials say pacemakers and insulin pumps are two of the many devices that could be at risk, while a study in 2008 highlighted that implantable devices like cardiac defibrillators could also be reprogrammed by hackers.
Nydailynews.com highlights that attacks on medical devices have for the most part been limited to fiction and studies. On the popular television drama ‘Homeland’, the vice president of the United States is killed by hackers that program his pacemaker to deliver an electric shock.
Kevin Fu, a professor of computer science from the University of Michigan, does however insist that it takes “just a blink of the eye” for malware to get into a device in real life – a point that could encourage business to try auditing the processes that ensure the security of their devices.
Cited by bworldonline.com, he claimed that while his institution hadn’t been alerted to any real cases of malware worming its way into medical devices, this idea wasn’t unfathomable.
“My opinion is that the greater risk is from malware that accidentally gets into a device rather than the attacked in fictionalized programs,” added Professor Fu.
“Malware will often slow down a computer and when you slow down a medical device it no longer gives the integrity needed to perform as it should.”