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FDA warns of hacking potential for medical device

It seems like everything from computer networks to cars can be hacked these days. The more that we rely on technology, the more vulnerable we are to people doing unscrupulous things with it. Even medical devices are not immune.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued a warning about the Symbiq Infusion System made by Hospira. The medical device is a pump that dispenses drugs and fluids to patients reportedly can be accessed through a hospital's network and the dosage it is programmed to dispense can be changed. Although the FDA says that it doesn't know of any incidents where one of the devices has been hacked, it still is urging medical facilities to discontinue their use.

One health care executive says that hospitals can help prevent hacking of medical devices by running separate wireless networks for its medical devices that are not linked to the Internet. He also says that firewalls can add further protection. The executive says that this cybersecurity warning by the FDA is likely "the first of many advisories."

Several years ago, fans of the series "Homeland" may remember that the U.S. vice president was killed when his pacemaker was hacked by terrorists. While that may have seemed far-fetched to many, the potential for such mischief may be more real than we'd like to admit.

Of course, medical devices today provide life-saving health care advances that could only have been dreamt about a few decades ago. However, they can malfunction. Hacking is probably one of the least-likely scenarios of something that could go wrong. Nonetheless, it's essential for anyone who relies on a medical device to stay informed about any warnings and recalls and to determine what their legal options are if something goes wrong.

Source: NetworkWorld, "Prominent healthcare CIO: FDA medical device security warning "will be the first of many"," Aug. 06, 2015

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