Feeds

Pacemakers, defibrillators open to attack

Crims could send 830 volts straight to your heart

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

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. ®

Patrick Gray's Risky Business podcast will bring Reg readers special coverage of the Ruxcon Breakpoint conference.

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
Webcam hacker pervs in MASS HOME INVASION
You thought you were all alone? Nope – change your password, says ICO
You really need to do some tech support for Aunty Agnes
Free anti-virus software, expires, stops updating and p0wns the world
USB coding anarchy: Consider all sticks licked
Thumb drive design ruled by almighty buck
Attack reveals 81 percent of Tor users but admins call for calm
Cisco Netflow a handy tool for cheapskate attackers
Privacy bods offer GOV SPY VICTIMS a FREE SPYWARE SNIFFER
Looks for gov malware that evades most antivirus
Patch NOW! Microsoft slings emergency bug fix at Windows admins
Vulnerability promotes lusers to domain overlords ... oops
prev story

Whitepapers

Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Internet Security Threat Report 2014
An overview and analysis of the year in global threat activity: identify, analyze, and provide commentary on emerging trends in the dynamic threat landscape.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.