Kill Switch For Pacemakers (And Countermeasures)
Medical device security researchers have figured out how to turn off a pacemaker via remote control.
(Pacemaker implantation diagram)
A pacemaker is a small, battery-operated electronic device which is inserted under the skin to help the heart beat regularly and at an appropriate rate. The pacemaker has leads that travel through a large vein to the heart, where the wires are anchored. The leads send the electrical impulses to the heart to tell it to beat.
Kevin Fu, an associate professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and director of the Medical Device Security Center, said that his team and researchers at the University of Washington spent two years working on the challenge.
William H. Maisel, a doctor at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital and Harvard Medical School, granted Fu access for the project. Fu received an old pacemaker as the doctor installed a new one in a patient. The team had to use complicated procedures to take apart the pacemaker and reverse engineer its processes. Halperin said that the devices have a built-in test mechanism which turns out to be a bug that can be exploited by hackers. There is no cryptographic key used to secure the wireless communication between the control device and the pacemaker.
A computer acts as a control mechanism for programming the pacemaker so that it can be set to deal with a patientís particular defribrillation needs. Pacemakers administer small shocks to the heart to restore a regular heartbeat. The devices have the ability to induce a fatal shock to a heart.
The authors of the study presented several different zero-power approaches to improve the security of implanted medical devices:
Our contributions include three zero-power defenses and
prototype implementations, one of which we evaluated for
effectiveness in a substance approximating the radio properties
of human tissue. Zero-power notiﬁcation harvests induced RF
energy to wirelessly power a piezo-element that audibly alerts
the patient of security-sensitive events at no cost to the battery.
Zero-power authentication similarly harvests RF energy to
power a cryptographically strong protocol that authenticates
requests from an external device programmer. Finally, sensible
key exchange combines techniques from both zero-power
notiﬁcation and zero-power authentication for vibration-based
key distribution that a patient can sense through audible and
tactile feedback. While we implemented prototypes of our
proposed defenses, we did not incorporate our prototypes into
a real IMD. (We use the term zero-power only to emphasize
that no expenditure of energy from the primary battery is
necessary. Zero-power defenses are also a step beyond the
use of a secondary battery for security-only or other auxiliary
I'm sure someone can think of a better sfnal reference for the idea of turning a person off by remote control; I do recall the "heartplugs" installed by the evil Baron Harkonnen in the (awful) movie version of Dune.
From Defcon: Excuse me while I turn off your pacemaker; see also the author's paper Pacemakers and Implantable Cardiac Deﬁbrillators:
Software Radio Attacks and Zero-Power Defenses [pdf].
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 8/10/2008)
Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.
| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 3 )
Related News Stories -
Skin Electronics Can Show Electrocardiogram
'... the young men in the streets who applied polyimde OLED body film to their bared shoulders.' - Chen Qiufan, 2019.
Neurodevices For Consumers? Neuroethicists (And Philip K Dick) Say 'Caveat Emptor'
'They tried to use it today and it wouldn't work. No colors and no ceph patterns, neither one...' - Philip K. Dick, 1977.
BrainEx Restores Some Activity To Severed Pig Head
'... they placed the brain in a special solution, having all the properties of Nursing the brain cells.' - Edmond Hamilton, 1929.
Purdue Pharma Ready To Profit From OxyContin Use Or Addiction Recovery
'It may be organic damage. It may be permanent. Time'll tell, and only after you are off Substance D for a long while.' - Philip K. Dick, 1977.
Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!)
is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for
the Invention Category that interests
you, the Glossary, the Invention
Timeline, or see what's New.
China Deploys Robot Traffic Police
'The robot came up smooth and fast as a rocket...'
Better Than Dune Chromoplastic? This Guy Might Have Done It
'But when Old Father Sun departs, the chromoplastic reverts to transparency in the dark.'
Gather, An AI Warehouse Inventory Drone Startup
'It extended three of its tiny arms sideways to lock onto the registration pins...'
China's Artificial Intelligence-Enhanced Education
'The grey gas not only cut off his vision, but also his other senses...'
Orbital Manufacturer 'Made in Space' Gets $73 Million NASA Contract
'Mass-produced in the orbiting factories...'
Soli Gesture Tech Will Be In Google Pixel 4
'I enjoy watching this way, but - He waved his hand and the circuit switched abruptly.'
Uber Eats Pairs Cars With Drones
Fresh grub? Let's hope they aren't delivering grubs.
Space-Based Solar Power Roundup
SF writers popularized and elaborated on this idea a generation before the first patents were filed.
Lost Language Meanings Found By Machine Learning
'The autopilot would need data before it could begin a translation...'
'Aerogel' Sheets For Martian Gardens
'Sealed to the ground along all the sides, Honey, he growled...'
France's 'Red Team' Of Science Fiction Authors
'They're the only experts we have.'
Dim The Sun With Stratospheric Controlled Perturbation Experiment
'Those twin volcanoes; d'ye see them, Mr. Renner?'
Mashambas Skyscraper Farm Design Wins
'...a towering eighty-story structure like the office In-and Out baskets stacked up to the sky.'
Self-Driving Tractors From China Plan Ahead
'Machines that seemingly with full consciousness walked out into the fields to do their daily work.'
Jet-Powered Hoverboard Works!
L'audace, l'audace, toujours l'audace!
Nobe 3-Wheel Electric Vehicle Parking Like I, Robot
Spidercar, Spidercar, does whatever a spidercar does.
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories