On one side of the coin conferences like Black Hat and Defcon that are going on right now in Las Vegas are really cool because it lets us see what creative minds can do with technology. On the other side of the coin though they can be pretty frightening events that show us just how badly our technology can be misused.
A perfect example of this was the presentation by Jerome Radcliffe where he showed how easy it is to hack an insulin pump and for all intents and purposes turn it into a murder weapon. What Radcliffe did was reverse engineered the pumps and their wireless connectivity to the point where he could command the pump to do what he wanted without anyone knowing.
There was no encryption, since that requires more complicated processing and would make the battery for the device run out faster. The sensor has to run on a 1.5-volt watch battery for two years. Adding encryption also makes the device more expensive. Once Radcliffe, who has used insulin pumps for a while and has been a diabetic since he was 22, understood how the devices worked, it was relatively simple to figure out how to hack them.
“I can get full remote control” of someone else’s insulin pump, Radcliffe said. “If I were an evil hacker, I could issue commands to give insulin, without anyone else’s authority. This is scary. And I can manipulate the data so it happens in a stealth way.”
This is truly scary but if something like an insulin pump can be hacked to this degree one has to wonder how safe our other modern medical devices are.