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WASHINGTON - Pacemakers, brain implants, insulin pumps and other medically implanted and external devices with wireless interfaces are vulnerable to cyber-attacks by hackers.
A recently released Department of Homeland Security bulletin sent to medical and cybersecurity industry professionals warns of possible future attacks.
This vulnerability raises a new security risk for the average person, high profile public figures and world leaders alike.
"One example of a common vulnerability I've seen is a medical device with a wireless interface, where the command and control doesn't have cryptographic authentication," says Dr. Kevin Fu, an associate professor in Computer Science at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.
Fu says a hacker, using a wireless interface, could utilize "another computer or another device to change the settings on a medical device to infuse insulin or control the defibrillation of a heart."
Security expert Jerome Radcliffe, a diabetic who uses an insulin pump, showed onlookers at the 2011 Black Hat Technical Security Conference that his pump's cyber vulnerabilities could lead to severe consequences.
He used a laptop and other computer-related gear to remotely disrupt the wireless signals being sent to his insulin pump, reverse them, swap the data being captured about his condition with phony data, and then send it back to the pump.
In effect, he demonstrated he could increase the amount of insulin injected by the pump, or reduce it, which could eventually kill him. During the chilling demonstration, the pump gave no indication someone had been tampered with it.