The pacemaker is a small electrical device that attaches to one’s heart. It controls heart beats through timed low-voltage electric shocks. The devices have saved countless lives, but these same devices now pose a serious threat.
New research from Barnaby Jack, Director of Security Research for IOActive, found that pacemakers could be easily hacked. It’s all because modern pacemakers have moved to a wireless control mechanism that can be activated from remote distances. Hackers can easily obtain the necessary information to take control of the devices from the pacemakers themselves.
So what could happen if a hacker were to take over a pacemaker? Jack demonstrated how he could force the pacemaker to deliver an 830-volt shock directly to a person’s heart. In short, a hacker could kill a pacemaker-equipped person with absolute certainty.
Unlike other hackers who reveal the names of companies to publicly shame them into fixing these problems, Jack has notified the pacemaker manufacturer in secret. There’s a big difference between hacking locks and murdering people. The worst part is that any deaths derived from this hacking method would be viewed simply as a tragic accident.
Even worse, a hacker could upload malicious software to a central server that would spread lethal shocks to everybody using that company’s pacemakers. If they so desired, a hacker could commit mass murder and everybody would be none the wiser.
The hacks don’t stop with killing people though. Jack also found that a hacker could access a patient records from their pacemaker. They could also gain remote access to the servers that run the pacemaker’s software.
The pacemaker was one of the first steps into merging man with machine. Since then, we have created countless technological breakthroughs that save lives through the use of machines. Unfortunately, the security of said machines have not kept up pace. This has led to today’s revelation that hacker’s can remotely kill you through a pacemaker. It’s kind of terrifying.
[h/t: Network World]