Johnson & Johnson was just trying to help diabetes patients when it created its new Animas OneTouch Ping insulin pump, which allows people to control the amount of insulin delivered into their bodies with a simple touch of a wireless remote. It's easy, it's discreet, it allows patients to accurately control their insulin levels -- and it's vulnerable to hackers who secretly want to overdose people on insulin.
That's right: Johnson & Johnson announced that its high-tech new insulin system is totally susceptible to attacks, to warn any diabetics just in case they have enemies looking to assault them with a mad case of hypoglycemia.
As dark as that sounds, the pharmaceutical company insists it's totally, probably not going to happen; it's just giving people a heads-up on the off-chance hackers have gotten too bored with Yahoo emails and are instead moving on to insulin pump remotes. But again, don't worry! You'll probably be fine, it's so unlikely, you have (almost) nothing to worry about!
"It would require technical expertise, sophisticated equipment and proximity to the pump, as the OneTouch Ping system is not connected to the internet or to any external network," the company wrote in a letter sent to doctors and patients. If you see someone with "sophisticated equipment" creeping around you at a coffee shop, though, watch out.
Just because it's improbable doesn't mean it's impossible -- after all, anything that's wireless and that high-tech inherently comes with some kind of security risk. This is particularly troubling in the medical field, where smart devices promise more automation, responsiveness, and personalization, usually through wireless access that connects you to the internet and all its hackers. Dick Cheney even disconnected his pacemaker from its wireless connection, which seems silly because Dick Cheney can't be killed by hackers or any other mere mortals.
The Animas OneTouch Ping is a little different -- it's vulnerable because the communications between the remote control and the insulin pump aren't encrypted or scrambled, which seems like something that should've been done, but we're not Johnson & Johnson, so who knows? Apparently, someone could intercept the remote's commands and pump their target full of insulin from up to 25ft away, a cyber-security firm found. No word on how the firm ran this test, but hopefully the subject recovered.
OK, so the attacker would have to hack the technology, build a sophisticated system, get within 25ft of their victim, and keep upping the insulin dose until the poor person's blood sugar dropped so low, it became life-threatening. But who knows -- "Pumping" could become the new "Swatting," especially among the gamer crowd. Their diet consists mostly of Mountain Dew and Doritos, which means there are probably a few people who have, or are going to have, diabetes... and also lots of enemies seeking revenge.