Think PC hacking is bad? How about heart hacking… wirelessly?

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heart_free_wi-fi_zone.gifComputers have been open to hacking attacks for years now, but most people generally think of the PC sitting on their desk, or a supercomputer tucked away in a bank vault, or cybercriminals hacking in to the Pentagon…

How about hacking medical devices designed to regulate a heartbeat?

Computer security researchers in the US found that it was possible to “hack” a Medtronic’s Maximo combination defibrillator and pacemaker, by placing it within two inches of some very expensive ($30,000 worth of) lab equipment and reprogramming it to either shut down or to deliver fatal jolts of electricity.

You’ll be pleased to hear that this device wasn’t fitted to a human heart. Well, duh.

Researchers emphasised that there was no current risk to the hundreds of thousands of people using such devices, though Tadayoshi Kohno, a lead researcher on the project, said, “the risks to patients now are very low, but I worry that they could increase in the future.”

Mmm, convincing.

Many medical devices are increasingly designed to be accessed wirelessly, even over the Internet, to make it easier for professionals to monitor a patient’s condition. Unfortunately, as with most technology, it’s never long before there’s some risk of abuse.

(Via New York Times)

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Andy Merrett