Medical Devices Are Vulnerable to Hacks, But Risk Is Low Overall

Devices will become harder to secure as they gain complexity and connectivity

3 min read
Medical Devices Are Vulnerable to Hacks, But Risk Is Low Overall

12 August 2011—Earlier this month, Jerome Radcliffe stood onstage at the Black Hat Technical Security Conference in Las Vegas, hacked into the insulin pump that was affixed to his abdomen by a thin tube, and completely disabled it. Radcliffe is diabetic, and the pump is one component in an insulin-delivery system that monitors and stabilizes his glucose levels to keep him alive.

Although hacking an insulin pump requires the advanced technical know-how of a security expert and a proximity of no more than 30 meters, Radcliffe's demonstration has reopened a debate over whether medical-device manufacturers are taking the necessary steps to fend off attacks by hackers. "Security is an all-the-time thing, not a sometimes thing," he says. "If there's a vulnerability, it needs to be addressed."

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A New Treatment for Arthritis: Vagus-Nerve Stimulation

Studies will soon show whether electroceuticals outperform pharmaceuticals

5 min read
A tablet computer, a smartphone, a grey belt with white stripes, a grey disc, and a small silver rectangle with a wire curled beside it.

Galvani’s system includes a nerve stimulator that attaches to the splenic nerve.

Galvani Bioelectronics

Monique Robroek once had such crippling arthritis that, even with the best available medications, she struggled to walk across a room. But thanks to an electronic implant fitted under her skin, she managed to wean herself off all her drugs and live pain-free for nearly a decade—until recently, when a viral illness made her rheumatoid arthritis (RA) flare up again.

This article is part of our special report Top Tech 2023.

Robroek’s long remission is “very impressive” and rare among patients with RA, says her doctor Frieda Koopman, a rheumatologist at Amsterdam UMC, in the Netherlands. Robroek’s experience highlights the immense potential of so-called bioelectronic medicine, also known as electroceuticals, an emerging field of treatment for diseases that have traditionally been managed with pharmaceuticals alone.

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