Over half a million people worldwide could potentially be victims of ‘pacemaker hacking’ after a manufacturer has revealed, in an open letter, that their devices were vulnerable to being controlled remotely.
Last week the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in America, confirmed that 465,000 pacemakers were suffering cyber-security issues leaving them open to being hacked by strangers.
Now the same producer, Abbott, have told the BBC there are a further 280,000 in other countries with the same problem, after they acquired the manufacturer ‘Jude Medical’ earlier this year.
Although they didn’t confirm whether this affected UK-devices or just elsewhere.
The radio-frequency enabled pacemakers, which are surgically implanted into the chest to regulate an irregular heart rythm, theoretically could be taken over by anyone within 50 feet of a patient.
They could cause this cyber-flaw to cause the electrodes to pace too quickly or deplete the battery supply, causing it to stop.
Although Abbott are keen to stress that there have been no reports of this occurring,
Ars Technica reported that all the equipment that it would take to perform such an action is “commercially available” to hackers.
Matthew Green, a Professor at John Hopkins University and specialist in cryptography, tweeted: “This is all theoretical, I stress. But I saw no reason that you couldn’t harm or even kill every patient with an ICD in a matter of days.”
“Now one hopes nobody would ever be enough of a psychopath to do this. But to threaten to do this to extort money? Sure.”
Rather than having them removed, patients are being advised to ask their doctor about an available update that will address the issues.
Any installed after 28 August will already come with the latest update pre-installed.
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