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RF Programming Hack Demonstrates Potentially Fatal ICD Exploit

I received today a link to a very interesting article which plays on the fears of the public, and which I am sure will result in tough new regulations to our industry.

The article discusses how IOActive researcher Barnaby Jack reverse-engineered a “pacemaker transmitter” (probably a programmer or a MICS module) to command ICDs within a 30 feet range to fire, or to rewrite their firmware.

This is the reason why MICS (“RF telemetry”) is under renewed scrutiny by regulators. Thoughts for mitigating this issue include requiring authentication and exchange of encryption keys via close-range (inductive) telemetry and other means before allowing any programming via MICS.

Click here for the original article.  The text reads:

Hacked terminals capable of causing pacemaker deaths

By Darren Pauli on Oct 17, 2012 12:33 PM

Security holes enable attackers to switch off pacemakers, rewrite firmware from 30 feet away.

IOActive researcher Barnaby Jack has reverse-engineered a pacemaker transmitter to make it possible to deliver deadly electric shocks to pacemakers within 30 feet and rewrite their firmware.

The effect of the wireless attacks could not be overstated — in a speech at the BreakPoint security conference in Melbourne today, Jack said such attacks were tantamount to “anonymous assassination”, and in a realistic but worse-case scenario, “mass murder”.

In a video demonstration, which Jack declined to release publicly because it may reveal the name of the manufacturer, he issued a series of 830 volt shocks to the pacemaker using a laptop.

The pacemakers contained a “secret function” which could be used to activate all pacemakers and implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs) in a 30 foot -plus vicinity.

Each device would return model and serial numbers.

“With that information, we have enough information to authenticate with any device in range,” Jack said.

In reverse-engineering the terminals – which communicate with the pacemakers – he discovered no obfuscation efforts and even found usernames and passwords for what appeared to be the manufacturer’s development server.

That data could be used to load rogue firmware which could spread between pacemakers with the “potential to commit mass murder”.

“The worst case scenario that I can think of, which is 100 percent possible with these devices, would be to load a compromised firmware update onto a programmer and … the compromised programmer would then infect the next pacemaker or ICD and then each would subsequently infect all others in range,” Jack said.

He was developing a graphical adminstration platform dubbed “Electric Feel” which could scan for medical devices in range and with no more than a right-click, could enable shocking of the device, and reading and writing firmware and patient data.

“With a max voltage of 830 volts, it’s not hard to see why this is a fairly deadly feature. Not only could you induce cardiac arrest, but you could continually recharge the device and deliver shocks on loop,” he said.

Jack said his goal was not to cause harm, but to help manufacturers secure their devices.

“Sometimes you have to demonstrate the darker side,” he said.”

 

 

 

 
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