Pacemakers, defibrillators open to attack
Crims could send 830 volts straight to your heart
Pacemakers and implanted defibrillators are vulnerable to wireless attacks that could kill tens of thousands, says the security researcher best known for "jackpotting" an ATM on stage at the BlackHat security conference in Las Vegas in 2010.
The researcher in question, Barnaby Jack, today told the Ruxcon Breakpoint security conference in Melbourne, Australia that “the most obvious scenario would be a targeted attack against a high profile individual.”
Jack also warned of a worst-case scenario in which a worm could infect multiple devices, spreading from patient to patient, re-flashing the devices with malicious code as it foes. This code could be programmed to deliver fatal shocks to patients implanted with vulnerable implants at a scheduled time.
Such an attack would be possible because pacemakers possess a wireless interface designed to deliver telemetry and allow maintenance. But Jack, who works for US-based security company IOActive, has subverted security in that interface and showed delegates a video demonstration of a wireless attack against an Implantable Cardioverter-Defibrillator (ICD). "There's 830 volts going into the heart there, which is a bummer," he said as an audible zap played over the conference audio system.
Hacking the devices was too easy, Jack says. "There's no attempt to obfuscate or hide anything from a would-be attacker".
They key problem is the devices rely solely on the device's serial and device numbers for authentication. Unfortunately it's trivial to enumerate these numbers wirelessly, authenticate to the device and reprogram them with malicious code.
In addition to his much-publicised attacks against ATMs, Jack recently made headlines when he reverse engineered and exploited insulin pumps, but the issues identified in his latest research are grave; millions of people worldwide rely on pacemakers and ICDs.
Jack says medical device manufacturers should be held liable for vulnerabilities in their products. "I 100% agree that they should be held liable… removing liability from the manufacturers is ridiculous. It allows them to write shoddy code and have no consequences from it," he says.
In the meantime, he recommends a complete redesign of the devices' security model, starting with the introduction of encrypted communications between devices and transmitters and a "reasonable" authentication scheme.
Jack did not identify affected vendors and says he hopes to work with them to improve the devices' security. ®
Re: How wireless are we talking?
My Pacemaker (Medtronic 4194) was implanted in 2009, and, for the curious, sits just below my shoulder blade. During my annual checkup, the reader, a small PC mouse-shaped device is perched over the scar. It's positioning is quite delicate, and 1/2" out of place will see the comms drop off.
So, tor the moment, this is restricted to an attack via the hospital equipment, or a prolonged personal attack (Asleep, passed out in a bar etc)
Whilst the devices will improve their range, this will require a bigger battery. As there is no wireless charging option available yet, this requires a re-fit every 7-10 years.
Hold on, this sounds familiar...... Fixed battery, dedicated software analysis by a "technician", expensive to install, difficult to service, proprietary software, limited connectivity - damn it - I have seem to have an iPacemaker.
See Karen Sandler's talk
Karen Sandler is currently Executive Director of the Gnome Foundation and previously worked for the Software Freedom Law Center, so she has a considerable background in open source software.
She also has a heart condition and her cardiologist advised her to get an implanted defibrillator. Which contains software. She asked to see the source code to independently verify the quality of the code that purports to possibly save her life. As the original article says, this code just might kill her.
Here's her story of what happened next.
Woah!... thats a bit of a shocker...
The downside of course is that no-one will have the heart to tell the patients...