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The hackers are after your heart

12 November, 2020

We are more connected than ever. And in ways we may not even think about. We learned this week that, by 2030, there will be 50 billion digitally connected devices – from kettles to fitness trackers – in circulation. This increase in connectivity brings many exciting opportunities, but also real challenges which the healthcare sector, among many others, has been struggling to grapple with. 

Five years ago, Marie, a cyber-security researcher, started Pacemaker Hacker Project. She aimed to hack her own pacemaker to show how easy it is for hackers to take over the communication capability of a medical device. Marie’s research showed that, not only can hackers take over a medical device, they can also make the pacemaker malfunction, switch it off or even falsify the information sent from the device to the doctor. 

The point is not simply to terrify (although it does that too!), but to draw attention to the scale and significance of issues around cyber-security, and try and break through the growing apathy and resignation many of us feel in relation to the complex work of data, ownership and privacy. 

Protecting our cyber-security rests on stakeholders taking collective responsibility for it – in the healthcare context, this means technology designers, researchers, manufacturers, and regulators must come together to ensure patients are protected, and patients understand the data exchange they are part of. 

Companies developing medical technology need to face the challenges head-on and become vigilant in collaborating with others to put their patients’ security first. They also need to be transparent about the potential cyber-security risks posed by their productsBut we all need to play our part too  as active citizens in a data-driven world, by asking the right questions and reading the T&Cs of new products and services. 

By Gemma Coate

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