McAfee issues medical kit hack attack warning

News 11 Apr, 2012

Security vendor claims hackers could access implants and devices, putting patients' lives at risk.

Hackers could endanger lives by gaining control of medical implants and devices, an IT security expert has warned.

Barnaby Jack, a researcher at security vendor McAfee, claimed hackers could gain control of insulin pumps, for example, using radio links.

They could then program the device to pump a fatal dose of insulin into the patient’s body, potentially killing them.

Jack claimed it took a "couple of weeks" to figure out how to hijack a well-known brand of the insulin pump using a radio antenna and laptop.

Although no attack of this type has been carried out, Jack said more needs to be done to safeguard medical devices against hackers.

“We can influence any pump within a 300ft range,” he told the BBC. “We can make that pump dispense its entire 300 unit reservoir of insulin and we can do that without its ID number.”

Jack said medical devices run on low power and have a few lines of code running on them, leaving little room for any kind of meaningful encryption.

He also confirmed that he has no plans to release his work publicly, but hopes his findings to date will prompt medical device makers to take action.