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Is your medical device vulnerable to hacking?

You may be one of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people across the country whose lives new advancements in medical technology saved. Whether you benefited from imaging technology or an implantable device, the technology enriched and perhaps lengthened your life.

More and more devices used by hospitals and on patients use software that could be vulnerable to hackers. The question is what makes them easy to hack and why would anyone want to do it. The most often used software in medical devices includes Bluetooth, Windows and the cloud. Hackers could hold the devices hostage, change data or even do it just to point out that the system is vulnerable.

What makes Bluetooth devices vulnerable?

If you have diabetes, you may use a smartphone app in conjunction with your glucose monitor. Bluetooth technology makes that happen. Even though a hacker would have to be close to you to get into your data, it could happen. It may take some time before companies resolve all of the security issues with Bluetooth technology.

What makes Windows devices vulnerable?

More than likely, you have heard of or experienced the "blue screen of death." Despite this, Windows is the software of choice for numerous pieces of medical equipment from infusion pumps to CT scanners. Windows also requires continuous monitoring and fixes in order to maintain security. This makes it a questionable software for medical equipment to some sources.

What makes devices connected to the cloud vulnerable?

Many implantable devices send data through the cloud. Doctors and nurses receive push notifications of data from those devices. Most often, the device comes with a companion piece that stays close to the patient. Data is taken from the medical device and transmitted to doctors. Any device that sends information over the internet is vulnerable to hackers.

Doctors can remotely administer intravenous nutrients and medications such as insulin or chemotherapy drugs through infusion pumps. If someone was to hack into this system, he or she could deliver a fatal dose of the medication to a patient.

What happens if I suffer harm because someone hacked my device?

Other than taking action against the person who hacked your device, you may also be able to file a lawsuit against the device manufacturer. You, and many others, may agree that these types of issues require thorough exploration, detection and addressing before a device goes to market and puts people's lives in jeopardy. The more often that medical device companies must take responsibilities for their shortcomings, the better the chances are that lives could be saved.

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