Latest in Gear

Image credit:

Pacemakers are far more vulnerable to hacking than we thought

A team of researchers find 8,000 bugs in pacemaker codes.
Share
Tweet
Share

Sponsored Links

Don Farrall

Back in January, the FDA has finally acknowledged that some pacemakers and other cardiac devices are vulnerable to hacking. But how vulnerable are they, exactly? A security company called WhiteScope has discovered 8,000 bugs that hackers can exploit in pacemaker programmers -- the tools used to adjust and monitor the device itself -- from four different manufacturers. More importantly, the researchers said they've also discovered that pacemakers don't authenticate programmers, so any working tool listed on eBay has the potential to harm patients with the implant.

Manufacturers are supposed to control programmers' distribution, but the researchers themselves got their test devices from the auction website for as little as $500 to as much as $3,000. In addition to those issues, the team has found that doctors' monitoring systems don't require log-in names and passwords when pacemakers connect to them. They even found unencrypted patients' data stored in the tools, including SSNs, names, phone numbers and medical conditions.

That said, Matthew Green, an Assistant Professor for Computer Science at Johns Hopkins, noted that doctors are adamant not to let security systems block patient care. He said that requiring passwords would merely lead to a "post-it note on the device listing the password," so every doctors' staff member can access the data they need. Green also called attention to some dubious parts of the study, particularly the lack of emphasis on the team's most alarming finding that third-party programmers can remotely access pacemakers:

Despite the points Green raised, it's still true that various security researchers have been warning manufacturers about pacemakers' and other cardiac devices' vulnerabilities for years. Unfortunately, it sounds like very few listened: a separate study by security firm Ponemon Institute LLC found that only 17 percent of manufacturers took steps to secure their products. While we've yet to hear about an incident that has led to a patient's death, it's still ideal to make cardiac devices more secure as cyberattacks become more common, elaborate and sophisticated.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Comment
Comments
Share
Tweet
Share

Popular on Engadget

The 2020 Engadget Holiday Gift Guide

The 2020 Engadget Holiday Gift Guide

View
Vava’s 4K ultra short-throw projector is $840 off at Amazon

Vava’s 4K ultra short-throw projector is $840 off at Amazon

View
Scientists find neutrinos from star fusion for the first time

Scientists find neutrinos from star fusion for the first time

View
Engadget readers get $200 off Roomba's i7+ vacuum at Wellbots

Engadget readers get $200 off Roomba's i7+ vacuum at Wellbots

View
Google shows off 'Cyberpunk 2077' running on Stadia at 4K

Google shows off 'Cyberpunk 2077' running on Stadia at 4K

View

From around the web

Page 1Page 1ear iconeye iconFill 23text filevr