It’s a story straight out of a cyberthriller, a haunting tale in which hackers take over someone’s insulin pump and deliver too much of the normally life-saving drug, killing him with the very device that was supposed to save him. It makes for good crime novel fodder, but one doctor is on a mission to make sure it doesn’t become a reality.
As the Internet of Things has given unparalleled connectivity to our everyday devices and appliances, new privacy and security concerns crop up all the time. For Dr. David Klonoff, the concern is that the cloud-based capabilities of new medical advances means they’re vulnerable to anyone with the skills to infiltrate them. And with everything from the aforementioned insulin meter to pacemakers that regulate heartbeat going digital and connected, nothing is scarier than a cybercriminal with the ability to alter the way your body functions.
According to an article for Wired.com, Dr. Klonoff’s first order of business is to secure insulin pumps. While the pump itself is not automated in terms of delivery of the insulin and therefore still requires the human patient to administer the amount, its subcutaneous glucose monitor is connected to the cloud in order to let doctors or minor patients’ parents access the readings. In nightmarish theory, a hacker could tell the patient via the glucose monitor that his reading is higher or lower than it actually is, and then cause him to administer a life-threatening dose or withhold needed amounts of insulin.
Privacy experts have warned that we’re too quick to engage our devices in ways that threaten our personal data security, but this realization on the part of Dr. Klonoff marks one of the first plausibly major concerns–outside of Hollywood blockbusters, of course–that our IoT devices can actually cause us physical harm. We’ve been so focused on the dangers of a self-driving car plowing through a crowded parking lot that we forgot to concern ourselves with the personal devices we blithely turn over to the cloud. Fortunately, Klonoff’s goal at this point in time is in writing the standards for how our IoT medical devices must be configured in order to be safe enough to live with while still functioning with their intended purposes.