Heart-hacking possible - but why would you?

ALEXIA JOHNSTON
Last updated 09:14 07/11/2012
NOT HEAVY HEARTED: Fraser Baird has a combined pacemaker and defibrillator device inserted in his chest after suffering from a heart-muscle disease. A researcher believes the electronic device can be hacked into.
JOHN BISSET/Fairfax NZ

NOT HEAVY HEARTED: Fraser Baird has a combined pacemaker and defibrillator device inserted in his chest after suffering from a heart-muscle disease. A researcher believes the electronic device can be hacked into.

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It would take a serious enemy to hack into a person's pacemaker, a New Zealand user says.

Fraser Baird, of Seadown, South Canterbury, who is fitted with a combined pacemaker and defibrillator, said although he believed it was possible to hack into the device, it was not something that worried him.

Security flaws have been revealed in pacemakers and defibrillators implanted in people with heart problems, according to IT security experts and a recent US government report.

The experts say many of the devices are not properly secured and are therefore susceptible to being hacked by someone with malicious intent.

Researcher Barnaby Jack is understood to have demonstrated how this could be done remotely. He believed it was possible because many implanted medical devices use wireless technology and authentication that requires only a user name and password.

Mr Baird believes he would have had to have done something pretty serious to be at risk of having his device hacked into.

"I think it's entirely possible, but what's the motivation? Someone's got to want to hurt you pretty badly. I don't think I've hurt that many people in my life."

He said was not overly concerned about someone hacking into his device.

"I'm as concerned as I am with someone hacking into my computer, by someone parking out front at night, but that would be about it."

Mr Baird has had the device for three years after suffering from cardiomyopathy, a heart-muscle disease. He discovered his heart abnormality while he was at work. A reading found his heart was racing at 200 beats per minute.

"All it was, was a virus came through. I didn't even know I had it, but apparently it's quite common."

His device is checked every six months for functionality and once a week it is hooked up to a machine to provide specialists with a reading of "what's happening" with his heart, he said, which should allow detection of anything going wrong.

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- The Timaru Herald

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