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Medicine Security Technology

Probing Insulin Pumps For Vulnerabilities 81

Posted by Soulskill
from the panic-versus-sanity dept.
Several readers have sent in news of a presentation at the Black Hat security conference from a diabetic security researcher, Jerome Radcliffe, who is looking into the security of automated insulin pumps. While most of the headlines are sensationalist, referencing "lethal attacks from a half-mile away," Scott Hanselman breaks down the media reports and weeds out the inaccuracies, explaining that while this is a valid area of concern, diabetics don't need to cover themselves in tinfoil just yet. "Just to be clear, Jerome has not yet successfully wirelessly hacked an insulin pump. He's made initial steps to sniff wireless traffic from the pump. I realize, as I hope you do, that his abstract isn't complete. Hopefully a more complete presentation is forthcoming. I suspect he's exploiting the remote control feature of a pump. ... What Jerome has done, however, is posed a valid question and opened a door that all techie diabetics knew was open. It is however, an obvious question for any connected device. Anyone who has ever seen OnStar start a car remotely knows that there's a possibility that a bad guy could do the same thing."
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Probing Insulin Pumps For Vulnerabilities

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  • by sheepweevil (1036936) on Friday August 05, 2011 @12:10PM (#36997646) Homepage

    I've had a minimed paradigm for about 8 years now, and all of what Scott said makes sense. In addition, there are a few more things which make this impractical. I assume the researcher is trying to hack the "Remote" option. Not only do you need to turn the remote option on, you need to add IDs of the remotes to the pump itself. So unless you can figure out how to add IDs remotely, you have to find someone with a remote, and get the ID from the remote.

    Second, there's a limit (at least on my Paradigm version) of 20 units of insulin at a time. I haven't tried this, but I think there's a system to prevent you from giving multiple 20 unit boluses at a time. Since I take around 14 units for some meals, 20 units of insulin is conceivable to overcome just by eating sweets, and there's always glucagon injections in a pinch. My pump makes a sound when it is done giving a bolus, meaning the diabetic could notice that a bolus was given (perhaps the beep is turned off for continuous glucose monitoring systems though).

    Finally, hypoglycemia is rarely fatal. From wikipedia []: "In nearly all cases, hypoglycemia that is severe enough to cause seizures or unconsciousness can be reversed without obvious harm to the brain." So even if you figure out how to give a remote bolus and succeed, it isn't likely to kill the diabetic.

"Freedom is still the most radical idea of all." -- Nathaniel Branden