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Boffins fight pacemaker hacks with ultrasound security

Don't go breaking my heart

Researchers are looking to ultrasound waves as a way to prevent attacks on radio-controlled pacemakers.

The plan - floated by doctors from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and the French National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Control - uses ultrasound waves to determine the precise distance between the patient and the wireless reader. Readers that aren't close enough to the device are automatically shut out.

The fledgling access-control system comes after US researchers demonstrated the risks of enabling radio communication in implanted medical devices. They found the devices were susceptible to leakage of personal information or remote attacks that drained the batteries or caused the devices to malfunction.

Radio transmitters are added to the devices so they can be repaired or maintained without requiring surgery.

Previously, researchers had proposed protections that required wireless reading devices to be physically close to an implant before it could be accessed. This was problematic because attackers could bypass the measure by using a strong radio transmitter to mimic close proximity.

MIT's Technology Review has more about the research here. ®

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