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Artificial pancreas vulnerable to cyber security risk

IANS  |  New York 

An artificial pancreas that automatically controls insulin infusion is at a greater risk of cyber security threat that may put users in trouble, researchers warn.

The artificial pancreas, designed for blood glucose control in diabetes, is controlled by software that runs on mobile computing platforms such as laptops, tablets and smartphones.

It operates over wireless networks under local or remote medical supervision.

As optimal function is critical to an individual's health and safety.

"But the risk of security threats targeting an artificial pancreas is of paramount concern and has not been sufficiently considered in the research and development of these emerging medical devices," explained Yogish C. Kudva from Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Kudva and co-authors from University of Virginia in Charlottesville reviewed the recent studies conducted on artificial pancreas systems and identify security vulnerabilities related to both internal and external factors that could put users at risk.

These include software integrity and the risk of malware such viruses, worms or spyware access to personal information or device manipulation.

External concerns may include exposure to electromagnetic fields that could interfere with proper function of the system.

The authors propose the need for a more formal and consistent approach in reporting the technical characteristics and performance of an artificial pancreas during experimental studies.

This would encompass the various components of these complex systems, which typically include a continuous glucose monitor, fingerstick blood glucose device and insulin pump.

"As the technology keeps advancing, we have to be vigilant about interference with medical devices, especially those that automatically control insulin infusion in the artificial pancreas," added Satish Garg, professor of medicine and paediatrics at University of Colorado Denver.

Garg is the editor-in-chief of the journal Diabetes Technology & Therapeutics (DTT) that published the paper.

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First Published: Fri, May 15 2015. 13:20 IST