Doctors are increasingly relying on implanted devices to help deal with medical conditions. The devices can be controlled and adjusted wirelessly. This is an obvious benefit to patients, most of us try to avoid being cut open, but the ease of access presents some real security concerns.
Researchers have shown they can take control of devices like implanted insulin pumps through the same wireless connections used by doctors. No incidents of malicious implant hacks have been documented, but the industry is scrambling to find ways to protect people just in case.
The other fear is that a hacker could “eavesdrop” on your pacemaker or insulin pump and find out information about your condition that you might want to keep private.
New devices may be built with security features built-in which would at least make hacking them much more difficult. That’s not a help to people who already have the devices however. Again, most of us try to avoid getting cut open and having additional surgery to get a “security upgrade” might be a tough sell.
One idea being floated is to essentially “jam” wireless signals on these devices if there’s an intrusion. The problem with that approach is that it might also block your doctor from being able to control the implant. Researchers at M.I.T. think they may be on to a solution. If you’re into high brow reading you can check out their ideas here.
Admittedly, this seems like something that is a very remote threat. However it’s probably not a bad idea to keep in mind as we make great strides in medicine, we shouldn’t leave patient security in the wake.