Cyber Attacks a Growing Concern for Newer Medical DevicesJun 14, 2013
As cyber attacks become a more high-profile threat in the U.S. and globally, federal health officials are asking medical device makers to focus on making any new products as safe and secure as possible from any kind of potential disruption.
The Wall Street Journal reports that officials with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) say that theoretically a cyber attack could impact a medical device’s performance. Devices that feature an online component are among the most vulnerable to this kind of attack.
Medical devices like implantable cardiac defibrillators, heart pacemakers, and even insulin pumps could one day fall under cyber attack; if such a device were to contract a web virus, say, the virus could cause it to stop working altogether or could corrupt it to deliver the incorrect dosage, for example. Cyber attacks, clearly, put a patient’s life at risk.
Although federal health officials report that no such attack has yet happened, it seems no one is ruling out the possibility. The FDA’s industry-wide call to medical device makers comes on the heels of an alert from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which warned late last year that the FDA should heighten its focus on the online vulnerabilities of medical devices, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The call from GAO is recognition that the technologies used by medical devices is trending toward wireless communications that are capable of sending performance reports via an Internet connection to a physician in their office or at the hospital. The more commonplace this technology becomes, the greater the risk the devices will face from a cyber attack or virus interrupting their performance, WSJ.com reports.
The Wall Street Journal notes that a recent study by researchers at the University of Michigan showed that an adept computer hacker could power off a Medtronic heart defibrillator. The same experiment showed that an insulin pump could be compromised in the same manner.