Is nothing safe? In an age where personal information, cell phones, WI-FI networks, hell, even presidential elections can be hacked, it should come as little surprise that medical devices are also now at risk.

Hackers could use cheap, “commercially available” equipment to remotely change the programming on affected pacemakers, according to an FDA Recall Notice issued Tuesday.

The recalled devices were manufactured before August 28 by St. Jude Medical, which was acquired in January by Abbott. The company will now require all external equipment to provide authorization in order to communicate with the pacemaker.

Patients who were implanted with the recalled pacemakers will not be required to have them surgically removed and replaced (whew – one less thing to worry about); however, the devices must be given a firmware upgrade in order to protect them against critical vulnerabilities.

The upgrade is a simple, 3-minute process which must be conducted by a healthcare provider. During this time, the device will run in backup mode. There is a slight risk that during the upgrade, diagnostic data or settings will be lost, FDA warned.

Worse yet, the pacemaker could become “bricked” (inoperable and totally useless), so patients should consult their physicians about the risks and benefits of updating their pacemakers before requesting the upgrade.

FDA warned that affected pacemakers are radio-frequency enabled according to wireless broadband (EEE 802.11) standards, and that anything that connects to WI-FI or the Internet can be hacked.

However, the agency also noted that connectivity has its benefits, including safer and more convenient healthcare, which ultimately leaves recipients between a rock and a hard place.

If you were implanted with a pacemaker, you can determine whether your device is affected by the recall by checking a special card you should’ve received after your initial surgery.

If you haven’t yet received a pacemaker, but are concerned you may require one at some point in the future, wise up and get healthy. Keep the hackers off your heart and content with the password to your Ashley Madison account.

Source: The Verge

Posted by Ray Simon

Ray Simon is a veteran copywriter with more than a decade's worth of experience in the field. He studied journalism at Vanderbilt University, graduating Cum Laude in 2007. Ray currently specializes in writing content and news articles for independent publications.