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Insulin pump hacking not a threat, Medtronic says

Medtronic Inc. isn’t in an uproar over recent reports of a hacked insulin pump that could discretely deliver dangerous doses of insulin to a wearer.

“To our knowledge, there has never been a single reported incident outside of controlled laboratory experiments in more than 30 years of device telemetry use, which includes millions of devices worldwide,” a director of PR from Medtronic’s insulin pump subsidiary MiniMed Inc. told, an online social network for diabetics.

” [W]e do not see a reason to believe that this is a reason for concern as your device went through extensive testing to make sure it would be safe and protected from external harm,” the spokesperson said.

At a computer security conference last week, security expert Jay Radcliffe, who is himself a diabetic, presented findings that his insulin pump could be hacked to respond to remote control operation that modified insulin flow.

“My initial reaction was that this was really cool from a technical perspective,” Radcliffe told reporters. “The second reaction was one of maybe sheer terror, to know that there’s no security around the devices which are a very active part of keeping me alive.”

Medtronic, which ranked 5th on the MassDevice Big 100 list of the world’s largest medical device companies, seemed skeptical of the Radcliffe’s anecdotal evidence, saying that his direct access to the pump and remote device as well as his conscious decision to turn on the wireless feature of the pump were beyond the type of access a hacker could reasonably have.

“We recognize there are people who focus on manipulation of devices — medical and otherwise,” MDT’s spokesperson said. “We also recognize there may be some who have malicious intent. Our job is to incorporate information security measures into our designs, vigilantly monitor potential threats and to always be proactively finding ways to make our devices more secure for you. That is what we have done and what we will continue to do.”

While medical devices have not yet proven to be an alluring target, researchers at MIT are already working on a defensive device to jam unwanted signals.

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