Are Artificial Pancreas vulnerable to cyber attacks?

A team of researchers explains that million of lives potentially depends on the resilience to cyber attacks of a new generation of “artificial pancreas.”

Medical devices are open to cyber attacks, many studies have demonstrated that a large number of a new enration of medical equipment could be affected by security flaws that could be exploited by hackers.

A few weeks ago, a group of researchers reported that drug infusion pumps are affected by numerous remotely exploitable vulnerabilities that could open the doors to hackers, now we will discuss about “artificial pancreas” used to manage the administration of insulin to diabetics.

The artificial pancreas could be vulnerable to cyber attacks that can alter the insulin level transmitted from a glucose monitor to the insulin pump.


According to a post published in the journal Diabetes, Technology and Therapeutics, the Dr. Yogish Kudva along with other colleagues analyzed the resilience of artificial pancreas to cyber attacks. Kudva highlighted the need to carefully evaluate the security of the devices and its components.

“We wanted to make sure that this important aspect of the field was adequately addressed as we get ready at scaling up on our studies,” explained the Dr. Kudva.

The mechanism behind the artificial pancreas is quite simple, the patient blood sugar is measured by a glucose meter that transmits the blood sugar value to the insulin pump which manages the insulin dose depending on it.

Dr. Kudva explained that data must be encrypted to avoid tampering that could allow attackers to change the insulin level with serious repercussion on the health of the patient.

“I think the most important issue to get security people more involved,” said Kudva. “I don’t think there is enough security expertise at this time.”

Despite the results of the test on the “artificial pancreas” aren’t yet available, security experts and medical staff agree on the need to implement security measures to protect the devices and introduce back up or warning mechanism to respond in case of attack.

In the specific case, an alarm could be triggered when the artificial pancreas intends to inject anomalous quantities of insulin.

The security implemented for medical devices is crucial, the new generation of medical equipment are always online and manages a huge quantity of sensitive data, for this reason the security must be a pillar of their design.

“I think that’s the next step,” Kudva said of the closed-loop “artificial pancreas” development.

Let’s wait for the results of the test.

Pierluigi Paganini

May 20, 2015

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