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Medtronic Recalls Insulin Pumps Over Hacking Risk

Medtronic, maker of MiniMed insulin pumps, is recalling several models. The reason for the recall is due to a hacking risk, a major security issue for those who rely on this instrument.

The Problem

The security flaw allows hackers can take control of the pumps and change the settings. MiniMed pumps use a wireless radio frequency to communicate with other diabetic devices like blood glucose monitors and sensor transmitters. These devices help regulate the dose and frequency of insulin given to patients.

In a statement, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns, “Patients with diabetes using these models should switch their insulin pump to models that are better equipped to protect against these potential risks.” This could lead to serious complications for diabetics who rely on these pumps to distribute the proper doses of medication at regular intervals.

The Risk to Consumers

In a letter to its patients, Medtronic said the risk could allow “an unauthorized person” to hack into nearby pumps via a wireless connection and change its settings. “This could lead to hypoglycemia (if additional insulin is delivered) or hyperglycemia and diabetic ketoacidosis (if not enough insulin is delivered).”

This is not the first time security concerns were raised about this company’s products. In 2011, security issues were raised about Medtronic insulin pumps when researcher Jay Radcliffe warned of a flaw that allowed hackers to disable pumps.

How to Protect Yourself

Although Medtronic says there are “no confirmed reports of unauthorized persons changing settings or controlling insulin delivery,” they recommend diabetics using the affected pumps take some precautions:

  • Users need to keep the pump and all other devices connected to it “within your control at all times.”
  • Those patients using the pump need to be aware of all alerts, alarms and notifications that do not share their pump’s serial number— this could be indication of a potential hacking or some other type of suspicious activity.

Know Your Risk

The best way to protect yourself, however, is to consult with your doctor or to check the recall list and see if your pump is one of those that is involved. Here is a list of the affected models in the recall (the software version is in the parenthesis):

  • MiniMed 508 (All versions)
  • MiniMed Paradigm 511 (All versions)
  • MiniMed Paradigm 512/712 (All versions)
  • MiniMed Paradigm 515/715 (All versions)
  • MiniMed Paradigm 522/722 (All versions)
  • MiniMed Paradigm 522K/722K (All versions)
  • MiniMed Paradigm 523/723 (Version 2.4A or lower)
  • MiniMed Paradigm 523K/723K (Version 2.4A or lower)
  • MiniMed Paradigm 712E* (All versions)
  • MiniMed Paradigm Veo 554CM/754CM* (Version 2.7A or lower)
  • MiniMed Paradigm Veo 554/754* (Version 2.6A or lower)

Talk With Your Doctor

The FDA says diabetics should talk with their doctors about switching to pumps that provide more cybersecurity protection. However, patients should seek medical help if it appears their settings have changed, or if they are feeling the symptoms of hypoglycemia or diabetic ketoacidosis.

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About the Author: Aisha K. Staggers is a writer, lecturer, political analyst and literary agent. She appears weekly for “Staggers’ State of Things” on the Dr. Vibe Show. Her work has been published by Paper Magazine, AfroPunk, The Spool, GREY Journal, MTV News, HuffPost, Blavity, Atlanta Blackstar, For Harriet, New York Review of Books and a host of other first-run publications and syndicated outlets. Find her on Twitter @AishaStaggers. For more of her work, check out her page here!

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