The word “hacking” makes most people think about computer viruses which can only harm computers or smartphones, and in the worst case scenario they can steal personal information.
The technological evolution in the medical industry opens the path to a new type of hacking attacks, attacks that might kill people.
Medical implants have security systems that can be compromised much easier than the security systems of computers and smartphones, so a skilled hacker might stop them from working, which might cause the death of people who are relying on medical implants in order to live.
Hacking Medical Implants
From Pacemaker devices to devices for diabetics which are used to automatically inject insulin, medical implants are exposed to attacks that can easily modify the way they work or even stop them.
McAfee discovered that medical implants are relatively exposed to hacking attacks because of the wireless connection to outside gadgets. After two weeks, McAfee found a way to take control of a insulin device, using a radio signal transmitted from a distance of 90 m. In the case the entire insulin reserve is administered at once, the person who is using such a device can be killed instantly.
A similar study was developed at Massachusetts Amherst University, where professor Kevin Wu, identified a way to stop defibrillator implants. These devices have the role of monitoring the irregular het rate and to reestablish the correct rhythm through electric shocks at low voltages.
The devices are implanted in the chest of the patients with heart problems and they are tested using radio signal, a signal that can be easily reproduced and it may stop the device from working.
Vehicles, in the near future, will be exposed to similar hacking attacks because of the advanced computer systems installed by auto manufacturers.
Without thinking about Google Car, the computerized systems of vehicles might be vulnerable to hacking attacks.
If the security system of a vehicle is compromised, hackers might take control of the dashboard, offering false information to the driver, information that might put the driver’s life in danger.
Power Grid Hacking
The dangers computer systems expose us can also fit a scenario in which thousands of people might be affected by a simple hacking attack.
The NSA warned about the danger of some hacking attacks on power grids. In a few years, Anonymous might endanger the security systems that control power grids.
Such an attack might leave hospitals in the dark, but also airports and entire cities, and can indirectly cause the death of hundreds of people with a few keystrokes. It remains to be seen if security systems will be one step ahead or behind hackers.