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Unsafe medical devices: pacemakers vulnerable to hackers
More and more patients with type 1 diabetes are wearing an insulin pump. In addition, over 100,000 pacemakers are implanted every year in Germany alone. The two medical devices can make an important contribution to the health of those affected, but the devices can also be attacked by hackers.
Electrical devices can interfere with the function of pacemakers
Health experts say over 100,000 pacemakers are implanted in Germany every year. Affected patients are advised to be careful with certain electrical devices, as this can disrupt the function of the pacemaker. For example, it is often advised to keep smartphones away from pacemakers. Hackers could also be at risk. Because these could attack aids such as pacemakers or insulin pumps.
Wireless data transmission
Pacemakers send a large amount of information to the doctor's screen via radio or cellular network.
Patients with diabetes also benefit from wireless data transmission between the blood glucose meter and the insulin pump.
As the IT security expert Wolfgang Hommel from the University of the Bundeswehr in Munich explained in a message from the dpa news agency, this is often very convenient for patients.
"But most of us are not aware that you can be brought around the corner if things go really stupid," says the expert.
Vulnerabilities have been known for years
The manufacturers of such devices have also pointed out these security gaps in the past.
For example, the US pharmaceutical manufacturer Johnson & Johnson informed its customers in the USA and Canada that one of its insulin pumps could be hacked.
And in the United States, almost half a million people were called to go to the hospital to make their Abbott pacemaker safe against hacking.
No specific case is known yet
As the agency report states, no concrete case is known yet.
However, there are numerous sample hacks with specific medical products, in which experts such as pacemakers emit strong current pulses or insulin pumps have high doses injected.
Former US Vice President Dick Cheney was aware of this risk and therefore had the remote control function on his pacemaker deactivated many years ago in order to prevent possible attacks and manipulation from outside. (ad)