Security expert warns of ‘cyber murder’ threat

Mark Pegram, Mike Watkins and Rick Derbyshire of Sanitas Data Security and a pacemaker in the foreground.
Mark Pegram, Mike Watkins and Rick Derbyshire of Sanitas Data Security and a pacemaker in the foreground.
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Heart and diabetes patients could be at risk of “cyber assassination” following attacks from internet hackers, a Galgate computer security expert has warned.

Implanted wireless-controlled medical devices like pacemakers and insulin pumps could be vulnerable to interference with fatal consequences, according to Mike Watkins.

Mike, 49, is one of three co-directors at Sanitas Data Security, a fledgling Penwortham firm which is studying the threat. Their interest was sparked while performing their own research as part of an MSc in cyber security at Lancaster University.

In Channel 4 series Homelandterrorists killed the US vice-president by hacking into his pacemaker and delivering an electric shock.

But Mike said: “TV might see cyber assassination as science fiction – but it is now science fact. Doctors and health chiefs have argued it couldn’t be done. But it’s time they woke up and accepted it can.

“If people can access devices by wireless and change the way they are working then it is a ticking time bomb in the healthcare industry.”

He added that Britain was lagging behind the US, where security experts are working with manufacturers and hospitals to tackle the threat.