Hacked cardiac implants: millions of wearers affected

Publié le 9 Dec, 2016

Several scientific studies have revealed that pacemakers, insulin pumps and cerebral implants can be easily hacked with dangerous consequences. This is bad news indeed for millions of people with cardiac implants around the globe. 


Anne Canteaut, Research Director at Inria, and Scientific Manager of the Secret (safety, cryptology and transmissions) team, explained: “For a few years now, most medical implants have been able to communicate with the outside world without wiresThis enables doctors to adjust the device and check the patient’s health”. 


At the end of September, the Johnson & Johnson Company confirmed the defect highlighted by Jay Radcliffe, an American cybersecurity expert. In fact, using its remote wi-fi connection, “the ’Animas OneTouch Ping’ insulin pump available in the United States and Canada can be hacked and the dose of insulin injected can be altered”. 

In June  2015, in Madrid, three Spanish scientists published a study on the safety of medical implants. Carmen Camara, from the Computer Technology Department at Charles III University in Madrid, and co-author of this publication, pointed out that, “Most of these devices are unprotected and, even if they are protected, the system used is obsolete”. 


In August, seven Oxford scientists alerted the general public by showing that a cerebral implant could be hacked. Laurie Pycroft from the Department of Functional Neurosurgery at Oxford University confirmed that, “A patient in chronic pain could suffer again and a person with Parkinson’s disease would be unable to move”.  

To avoid such situations, scientists are asked to regularly change the passwords for the cardiac devices, not to disclose implant serial numbers on the Internet and to heighten public awareness. Laurie Pycroft added that, “When doctors notice that an implant patient is suddenly behaving strangely, they should immediately consider the possibility of hacking”.

Les Echos (Jacques Henno) 29/11/2016

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