Heart Defibrillators and Hackers

While we’ve all heard of Medtronic’s problems with their Sprint Fidelis leads breaking and causing faulty electrical signals to the heart, this is a new one: pacemaker patients could be subject to a hacker remotely jolting their heart. According to a story published in the Wall St. Journal, it’s possible for someone to transmit radio signals and interrupt, stop, or otherwise alter the instructions that the doctor has programmed into the defibrillator. Presently, only doctors can buy a defibrillator from one of the major manufacturers such as Medtronic, Boston Scientific, or St. Jude Medical. However, this safety precaution does not prevent someone with the technological skill to hack into a defibrillator system because that system receives instructions via radio waves. As the Journal article mentions, this is a theoretical risk and not an actual risk since no one has reported such behavior.