PACEMAKERS VULNERABLE TO HACKERS, PEOPLE’S LIVES AT RISK
It’s enough to give someone a heart attack, perhaps many someones. The FDA has announced that over 465,000 pacemakers installed domestically have an exploitable vulnerability. This could give hackers the ability to make pacemakers operate too fast or to drain their batteries of power. So if you know anyone at all with a pacemaker, warn them that they must update the firmware of their life saving hardware. This is really scary stuff.
HACKERS COULD SPEED UP DEVICES, DRAIN THEM OF POWER
The identified vulnerability was isolated to devices made by Abbott’s (formerly St. Jude Medical’s) which are radio frequency-enabled. Of some little comfort is that according to the Department of Homeland Security, a would-be hacker would need to be fairly physically close to a person with one of these devices in order to take advantage of the security hole.
NO FATALITIES SO FAR, BUT PEOPLE MUST BE WARNED
So far, there haven’t been any reports of the vulnerability being exploited in the wild, according to the FDA. DHS also notes that the exploit code is not publicly available, so there’s not much risk of a random hacker stumbling across it. “An attacker with high skill would be able to exploit these vulnerabilities,” DHS said.
PATIENTS WITH DEVICES MUST SEE THEIR DOCTOR TO UPDATE FIRMWARE AND BREATHE EASY
Still, even though there’s not a ton of risk of having your pacemaker hacked in public, the FDA recommends that patients with the device make an appointment with their doctors to get the firmware update.
SOMEONE SITTING NEXT TO YOU CAN END YOUR LIFE WITH A KEYBOARD
“These vulnerabilities, if exploited, could allow an unauthorized user (i.e. someone other than the patient’s physician) to access a patient’s device using commercially available equipment. This access could be used to modify programming commands to the implanted pacemaker, which could result in patient harm from rapid battery depletion or administration of inappropriate pacing,” the FDA warned.
So, get the word out. There’s a vulnerable population out there that needs to be warned. It just might save lives.