According to a group of hackers, there have been vulnerabilities found in millions of pacemakers that allow those with the expertise to fully control the device using RF waves.
This is essentially means that anyone with a pacemaker could be killed remotely if used by the wrong hands.
Pacemakers are surgically implanted into people to control abnormal heart rhythms, using electric pulses to ensure the heart beats a specific way.
Many devices such as pacemakers and ICDs however use RFs (radio frequencies) in order to transmit a patient's current status remotely to health providers who can monitor or adjust what may be necessary to keep them alive.
Such devices use what's known as a MICS (Medical Implant Communication Service) frequency band which is between 402 and 405 MHz in order to pair with the monitor using the pacemaker’s serial number and device or model number to pass information.
Being an implantable device, it will then monitor and communicate with the locations of the other essential systems over a range of up to 50 feet, which could be increased by using high gain antenna.
The wireless RF link can then be used to remotely maintain the pacemaker at the hands of a physician or health service, or for the means of updating firmware in the devices; so that these devices can be accessed without another surgery.
So how can they be exploited? Well they maintain vulnerabilities in the sense that a hacker within the range of the radio could completely control the device.
<blockquote>“If there were a successful attack, an unauthorized individual (i.e., a nearby attacker) could gain access and issue commands to the implanted medical device through radio frequency (RF) transmission capability, and those unauthorized commands could modify device settings (e.g., stop pacing) or impact device functionality,” said Abbott in an open letter to doctors.</blockquote>
If a hacker were close enough to establish a connection to the pacemaker he or she could then update firmware, rewrite parameters necessary to the specified patient in order to keep them alive, or even kill the device completely.
What can be done to stop this? Anyone with a pacemaker is urged to visit your doctor immediately for a firmware update and a patch to the vulnerable pacemakers.
<blockquote>The firmware update process takes approximately 3 minutes to complete, and during this time, the device will operate in backup mode (VVI pacing at 67 bpm), and essential, life sustaining features remain available. At the completion of the update, the device will return to its
There is an incredibly low risk of a malfunction during the update process, which is why it's still recommended for patients to see their doctors immediately to ensure that they are properly treated.
If you or a loved one has a pacemaker you're being urged to immediately consider the risks posed to your pacemaker, and your life.
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