So over the weekend I heard one of the most bizzare things: People can hack into insulin pumps. Ok, I blinked. A few times. Does this mean anything to me? Jerome Radcliffe, a person with diabetes himself, showed how to hack into an insulin pump at a tech conference. I got a tweet concerning this as well as received numerous emails about this very topic.
If you take a look at the comments at the end of the article, you'll see examples of my initial reaction. So, when wearing a pump, you still have to push buttons to make it work and confirm dosages of insulin. It's not like a pacemaker that works on its own. In fact, when I first got my pump, the nurse told me that I could override the suggested amount of insulin if I felt that it was too much. I have to physically push the ACT button to make it work (see photo).
Radcliffe said that someone with an overpowering radio signal could change the blood glucose readings on continuous glucose monitors, hence altering calculations and changing insulin dosages. One would hope that those with diabetes are intelligent enough to see that there is a miscalculated reading or know their bodies well enough to not depend solely on a continuous glucose monitor (some have actually proven to be less than accurate).
In order to kill a person, one would have to take a large quantity of insulin. This also has to be taken into account. If someone feels normal and checks their blood sugar to find that it's abnormally high, I would hope that there would be a flash of doubt in their minds about batteries, malfunctions or anything of the sort.
This hacking phenomena caused a ruckus all over the country and media world. But what did those with diabetes have to say about it? They wanted answers. Many were also disgusted at the fact that Radcliffe would put this information out there for those who had the audacity to actually try this ridiculousness.
There was a question and answer interview posted from Medtronic, one of the leading pump manufaturers, explaining what was found and how to override it. If there's anything that Radcliffe did, it was give crazy people ideas about hacking pumps (why would you WANT to do that anyway?) and got a lot of uneducated people out there in the mainstream media to fall for such an outlandish and misleading story.
I go back to what I've said before: you have to know yourself and know your body. You can't be afraid to be prepared. There are many situations that a person with diabetes can find themselves in, this being one of the least of your worries. If people really are afraid, learn to use the pump. Learn about what happens. Read the articles but don't believe everything you hear.
The only people I think who would be susceptible to pump hackers are very important, high profile folks. And even then... Just stop giving into ignorance and educate yourself.