Medical device hacking expert dies before releasing pacemaker exploit

Medtech hacker dies ahead of cybersecurity conference

Photo from Twitter @barnaby_jack

Cybersecurity expert and avid medical device hacker Barnaby Jack died this week, just days before he was slated to present his latest research into hacking implantable cardiac devices.

Jack had made a name for himself in the hacking and security community with high-profile exploits, such as in his 2010 presentation that exposed a vulnerability that made ATM machines spew free cash. He’d also made himself known in medical device circles thanks to his work demonstrating long-range hacks into insulin pumps.

Next week at the Las Vegas Black Hat conference, one of the biggest (and priciest) security conferences out there, Jack was slated to give a presentation titled "Implantable Medical Devices: Hacking Humans."

"Barnaby will discuss how these devices operate and communicate and the security shortcomings of the current protocols," according to a presentation summary by IOActive, where Jack was director of embedded security research. "IOActive’s internal research software will be revealed that utilizes a common bedside transmitter to scan for, and interrogate individual medical implants."

Jack was also slated to offer some guidance for medical device makers on how to boost security in networked technologies.

Black Hat organizers have opted not to replace Jack’s presentation, according to a conference statement.

"No one could possibly replace him, nor would we want them to. The community needs time to process this loss," organizers said.

Jack made headlines last year when he demonstrated that he could hack a common insulin pump from 300 feet away, using little more than a laptop and a custom-made antennae. Jack’s software broke through the insulin pump’s security and altered its program to dump its contents, injected a potentially lethal dose of the hormone into a dummy pancreas used for demonstration purposes.

Earlier this year Jack wrote an in-depth blog post about cardiac implant cybersecurity after he watched an episode of the television drama Homeland in which a terrorist remotely hacked a politician’s pacemaker. Although some dismissed the plot device as mere Hollywood fantasy, Jack’s sense was that "the episode was not too far off the mark."

"At IOActive, I’ve been spending the majority of my time researching RF-based implants," Jack wrote in a February blog for IOActive. "We have created software for research purposes that will wirelessly scan for new model ICDs and pacemakers without the need for a serial or model number. The software then allows one to rewrite the firmware on the devices, modify settings and parameters, and in the case of ICDs, deliver high-voltage shocks remotely."

Jack added that the purpose of the research wasn’t to alarm patients or discourage them from getting life-saving implants for fear of potential hackers, but to help improve the technology by working with the manufacturers to make them safer.

"Although the threat of a malicious attack to anyone with an implantable device is slim, we want to mitigate these risks no matter how minor," Jack wrote. "We are actively engaging medical device manufacturers and sharing our knowledge with them."

RSS From Medical Design & Outsourcing

  • MIT’s MultiFab presents a stark challenge to incumbent 3D Printer manufacturers’ hardware, software, and business Models
    MIT’s Computational Fabrication Group recently announced the MultiFab, a low-cost 3D printer that can combine up to 10 different resins in one part and also includes a 3D scanning system to identify and fix errors during production. According to Lux Research, these capabilities are rare in commercial 3D printers today due to the manufacturers’ need […]
  • AVX releases Accu-P MP medical grade film chip capacitors for medical devices
    AVX Corporation, a leading manufacturer of passive components and interconnect solutions, has released a new series of thin film chip capacitors specifically designed to meet the demanding performance specifications for implantable medical devices. Delivering extremely tight capacitive tolerances, exceptionally repeatable performance, and remarkably low ESR and high Q at high frequencies—including VHF, UHF, and RF […]
  • RIVANNA commences manufacturing of its Accuro device
    Rivanna Medical announced that it has begun manufacturing its FDA-cleared Accuro device, a handheld and untethered smart-phone-sized device that is designed to guide spinal anesthesia with automated 3D navigation technology in addition to ultrasound imaging of abdominal, musculoskeletal, cardiac and peripheral vascular anatomies. The product will be launched at the ASA annual meeting in San […]
  • FDA seeks public input on Quality Metrics guidance
    by Oliver Wolf, Senior Product Manager, MasterControl In line with the general shift towards risk-driven approaches in the quality management world, FDA is now taking steps towards applying those same principles to its own auditing schedule. At the end of July, the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) and the Center for Biologics Evaluation […]
  • First ‘Ear Wear’ for Active Adults Debuts with MDHearingAid FIT
    If you’ve burned out your ears with earbuds, headphones or decades of other audio abuse but aren’t ready for your grandmother’s hearing aids, not to worry! The new MDHearingAid FIT gets you back in the game with a tiny, FDA-registered, one-size-fits-most solution that doesn’t block your ear canal like old-fashioned in-the-ear hearing aids. The FIT feels […]
  • CardioGenics enters into manufacturing agreement with Ontario-based Plasticap
    CardioGenics Holdings, developer for the In-Vitro-Diagnostics (“IVD”) testing market, announced that it has entered into a manufacturing agreement with Plasticap of Ontario, Canada, pursuant to which Plasticap will manufacture CardioGenics’ proprietary self-metering cartridges for its QL Care analyzer. The term of the agreement is three years and the purchase price for each cartridge shall be […]
  • MTD Micro Molding releases micro materials menu
    MTD Micro Molding, a long-time leader in micro-injection molding, has released an updated “Materials Menu” of materials that can be successfully micromolded to help guide engineers at medical device companies. Material selection is a crucial step in product manufacturability. The correct material drives tolerance, dimension, strength, usabality, speed-to-market, design, critical features, and cost. Through MTD’s […]
  • MedTech Chat: Elastic technology for drug delivery
    Dr. Zhen Gu and Dr. Yong Zhu from North Carolina State University are both co-senior authors of a research paper describing their recent work. Dr. Gu, Dr. Zhu and other researchers from North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have developed a drug delivery technology that consists of an […]
  • B. Braun’s OEM Division offers large bore normally closed low-pressure check valves
    Infusion therapy and pain management device manufacturer B. Braun said today it is offering normally closed large-bore low-pressure check valves through its valve-focused contract manufacturing OEM division. The valves, offered by Bethlehem, Pa.-based B. Braun, are designed for the intermittent injection of fluids during medical treatment and open automatically when pressure is applied. The newly […]
  • Continuous 225W with natural convection for medical type BF power supply
    Powerbox, a European power supply company, introduces new Medline 225 series ac and dc single output open frame converters for medical type BF applications. The new OFM225 with its 3 x 5 in. footprint and 1.5 in. height is designed for a continuous output power of 225W with natural convection and 40°C ambient temperature, increasing to […]
  • Using data science to achieve ultra-low dose CT image reconstruction
    Prof. Jeff Fessler and Prof. Yong Long, Ph.D. of the University of Michigan-Shanghai Jiao Tong University (UM-SJTU) Joint Institute are collaborating on a project to develop a dramatically improved approach to low-dose X-ray CT image formation by extracting and using information from a big-data corpus of regular dose X-Ray Computed Tomography (CT) images. The research is […]

Leave a Reply