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Implantable medical devices may expose patients to security, privacy risks; solutions suggested
Date:3/12/2008

ings wirelessly.

In computer laboratory bench tests, the research team used an inexpensive software radio to intercept and capture signals sent from the implantable device. They were able to obtain detailed information about a hypothetical patient, including name, diagnosis, date of birth and medical ID number. Researchers could determine the make and model of the device and access real-time electrocardiogram results as well as data on the hypothetical patients heart rate and cardiac activity.

The team then mounted several attacks. Researchers were able to turn off the therapy settings stored in the implantable device, rendering it incapable of responding to dangerous cardiac events. Additional commands were delivered, resulting in the delivery of a shock that could induce ventricular fibrillation, a potentially lethal arrhythmia.

Three deterrence and prevention mechanisms were developed as part of the study, including a notification device that audibly alerts patients of security sensitive events, a device that authenticates requests for access from outside devices and a vibrating device that patients can sense. All three mechanisms require no power from the battery, and one of them was evaluated for effectiveness in a substance similar to human tissue.

Because the team studied one common model of implantable cardiac defibrillator, the susceptibility of similar devices to privacy and security risks is uncertain. The researchers believe future studies are needed to assess potential risks associated with other implantable devices equipped with wireless technology. The researchers feel strongly that nothing in their report should deter patients from receiving these devices if recommended by their physician. The implantable cardiac defibrillator is a proven, life-saving technology.


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Contact: Hannah Hickey
hickeyh@u.washington.edu
206-543-2580
University of Washington
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2 3

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