Science
Heart (hack) attack
hearthack.jpg

Now THIS is a realm of techno-phobia that never would have crossed my mind. And you thought you were paranoid about people stealing the data from your RFID-equipped passport. From Engadget:

…researchers are now warning about a possible vulnerability to an especially important bit of technology: medical devices that control the human heart. As The Wall Street Journal reports, the concerns are mostly centered around so-called “programmers,” which are devices used to wirelessly communicate with the implanted defibrillator or pacemaker. Those devices are obviously only sold directly to physicians by a select group of companies but, as the researchers warn, it is at least conceivable that hackers could transmit the same radio signals using another device, allowing them to shut down the defibrillator or deliver a shock, or possibly even obtain a patient’s medical information.

Heart-Device Hacking Risks Seen – Link

12 thoughts on “Heart (hack) attack

  1. This is particularly disturbing for me–I have a brain device (deep brain stimulation for muscular dystonia) which my doctor is adjusting once a month, using one of the cited programming devices. I’ve thought about doing this kind of thing with it, but I’d be pretty cautious. I don’t think I could injure myself that way, however–it is a microcurrent device.

    One mitigating factor–the hardware (implants) in question are very expensive–on the order of tens of thousands of dollars, and the hacking techniques employed depend on having physical access to one (not implanted). So short of surgery, murder, or a very expensive purchase, I wouldn’t expect to see hackers messing with this stuff outside a funded lab anytime soon.

  2. Youd have to be one sick bastard to go around with some antenna deliberately firing off pacemaker-compatable signals

  3. When my Dad received his pacemaker five years ago, he was warned not to loiter near those theft-prevention scanners in stores. They can bugger up the programming.

    The pacemaker clinic at the hospital here had one patient who came in once or twice a year to be re-programmed until they tracked the problem to the theft prevention scanner at the public library. It was turned up so high that simply walking through it would mess the pacer up.

  4. Funny how the wording suggestions that stealing personal information the most dire implication of such an attack

    “.. allowing them to shut down the defibrillator or deliver a shock, or possibly even obtain a patient’s medical information.”

    I would think that stopping someone’s heart would be a little bit worse than stealing their personal information.

  5. This is just a scare tactic used by the media. An EMP pulse would require less effort than hacking a pacemaker.

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. And he has a new best-of writing collection and “lazy man’s memoir,” called Borg Like Me.

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