Back in June, I wrote about the MSNBC article on wireless pumps being hacked. You can read that article here. Last week, the Washington Post also wrote about it. Since then, there has been a lot of discussion about it and several of the other diabetes advocates have written about it. Keep in mind that this is not just insulin pumps involved, but insulin pumps seem to be what is getting all the attention. It involves Continuous Glucose Monitors (CGMS), pacemakers, defibrillators and any other wireless medical device out there. I will make a list at the end of the other articles so you can read more thoughts on the subject and I will update that list as I hear about more.
When I wrote my original article, I wrote, “It is pretty scary to think that someone can deliberately take over your pump and inject insulin into you without your knowledge.” In one way, it is scary, but what is the likelihood that would ever happen? Just because something is possible does not mean it will happen. You have a greater chance of being killed in a car accident than someone killing you with your pump – I sincerely doubt that you will quit driving or being a passenger in a car just because you could be in a bad accident. Do you really believe that someone is going to sit at the mall picking off every pump user that walks past? Honestly, if someone really wants to do you in, there are a lot easier ways to do it.
One of the newspaper articles that I read mentioned a CGMS. They stated that a hacker could have the same blood sugars appearing on the CGMS screen over and over and the patient would not know that they needed to take insulin. My response to that is really? A CGMS is a supplement to testing with a meter, not a replacement for testing with a meter. I know that there are people out there that don’t test, but whether their CGMS can be hacked or not, I would say that they are careless. I am not sure that there is a nice way to put that and careless is 120% nicer than the first word that popped into my head!
As much as I love my Dexcom and I think that it is pretty accurate, I also know that there are times that it does stray. I have posted pictures on my blog of a couple times that it was off. One of those articles was Dexcom Gone Crazy. At the end of that article, I stated, “I do want to put a little note here for you non-Dexcom users that this not typical Dexcom behavior. However, it is a good reason why you should always double-check with your meter before making treatment decisions.” If someone managed to take over my Dexcom receiver, I know what would happen – I would “think” the sensor was bad and I would be on the phone to Dexcom asking for a replacement sensor. End of story.
Although I feel that as consumers, we have a right to know about any potential problem, but like others, I am concerned about what the media attention will do to devices either currently before the FDA or just in the planning stages. We need these things and I doubt any of us would want pump companies to change their focus away from important upgrades to correct a very minor issue that will probably never occur.
I do agree that these companies need to be policed, but I also think what they have to go thru to make minor changes to a device is unreasonable. A lot of people in the Animas group on TuDiabetes have complained about the color of their remote screen. Just to change the color of the screen, Animas has to jump thru hoops with the FDA. That color screen in Canada came out last October, but yet we are still waiting for it here – two more months and that will be a full year. I pulled up two different discussions from last October in the Animas Group about the colored remote in Canada; you can read those here and here. I know there are other discussions there, but I only pulled up the first two that came up when I did a search. The only thing that colored screen is going to do is make it easier for people to see their pumps. Why should a company have to jump thru hoops to do that?
Like I said above, my initial reaction in June was “that is scary,” but I think we need to take a step back and think about this logically. What is the chance of someone actually killing you by doing that? Pacemakers and defibrillators have been in use longer than people using remotes for their pumps. How many people using those devices have been done in by someone taking those over? Your pump is a machine that has a possibility of malfunctioning yet you are willing to take that chance. I would think odds wise, there is more of a chance of a malfunction than someone coming along and giving you an unwanted bolus. I personally think it is more important for these device manufacturers to move forward with improvements that will actually help us as opposed to spending time fixing a problem that will never impact us.
List of other articles discussing this issue:
Manny Hernandez, TuDiabetes, Q&A from Medtronic, http://www.tudiabetes.org/forum/topics/pump-hack-q-and-a-posts
Manny Hernandez, TuDiabetes, Q&A from Animas, http://www.tudiabetes.org/forum/topics/statement-from-animas-about-pump-hack
Kerri Morrone Sparling, Six Until Me (Kerri spoke with Jay Radcliffe), http://sixuntilme.com/blog2/2011/08/hacked_jay_radcliffe_insulin_p.html
Matt McGuire, Type 1 Online, http://type1online.com/hacking-insulin-pump-47.html
Scott Hanselman, Scott Hanselman’s ComputerZen.com, http://www.hanselman.com/blog/HackersCanKillDiabeticsWithInsulinPumpsFromAHalfMileAwayUmNoFactsVsJournalisticFearMongering.aspx?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ScottHanselman+%28Scott+Hanselman+-+ComputerZen.com%29