Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Hacking pacemakers

It was reported by the New York Times in March that a wireless security flaw had been discovered in a defibrilator-pacemaker. The researchers who disovered it used a device in a laboratory, not one implanted in a real person. They were able to deliver potentially fatal shocks and even received patient data from the unit over the wireless transmitter.

There's not really any risk of your pacemaker getting hacked at this point. But it is a growing concern among security experts who try to see where the risk is 2, 5, 10 or more years from now. It's a very low risk concern right now, that could change.

As computers become more intertwined in our day to day lives, even into our bodies in the form of things like pacemakers and insulin pumps, and even prosthetic limbs the possibility of malware being written for them increases. If anyone can find a way to make money doing it.

In April's Lauren Cox took a deeper look at the possibility of taking over implantable medical devices. She brings up one very interesting point - a point that's also a little frightening:

"What's more, people with ICDs often are public about them. Former Vice President Dick Cheney is one example of a high-profile American with a device."

It's way to early to say there ever will be assassins using implanted devices to kill. But can we afford to wait for it to happen before we take steps to protect against it?