Written December, 2012
The US Government Accountability Office has released a report claiming that implanted medical devices, such as pacemakers, are susceptible to hackers.
Many medical devices are programmed to allow doctors easy access in case reprogramming is necessary in an emergency, so security has never been top priority in their design. While we don’t yet have evidence of a hacker breaching the security of a medical device with malicious intent, we do know that it’s possible, and over the last few months, government and health care agencies have been discussing the best ways to protect patients.
Barnaby Jack, a hacker and director of embedded device security at IOActive Inc., demonstrated the vulnerability of a pacemaker by breaching the security of the wireless device from his laptop and reprogramming it to deliver an 830-volt shock. However, mere days before he was scheduled to make a presentation at the Black Hat Conference in Las Vegas on Aug. 1, 2013 showing how he was able to remotely shock the pacemaker, he was found dead in his apartment.
Anyone who watched season 2 of the show Homeland saw the fictional vice president William Walden assassinated after his pacemaker was hacked and heart shocked. But did you know the former VP Dick Cheney had the wireless signal in his own pacemaker disabled for fear of hackers before the Homeland episode was even aired?
Reports and general info:
Medical Devices Vulnerable to Hackers, New Report Says (Live Science)
Alert: Medical Devices Hard-Coded Passwords (Department of Homeland Security)
How Vulnerable Are Medical Devices to Hackers? (The Economist)
The Strange Tale of Barnaby Jack
Pacemaker Hack Can Deliver Deadly 830-volt Jolt (Computer World)
Programmer Barnaby Jack Dies A Week Before Showing Off Heart-Attack Hack That Can Kill A Man From 30 Feet Away (The Raw Story, via Reuters)
RIP Barnaby Jack: The hacker who wanted to save your life (Washington Post)
Information for patients and doctors