Posted on September 1, 2017 at 1:25 PM
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is recalling close to half a million pacemakers after a discovery that the devices are at the risk of getting hacked. These devices can provide unauthorized access, allowing intruders to deplete batteries or control pacing. But instead of device replacement, the regulator has instructed the manufacturer to dispatch firmware update that would fix the vulnerabilities.
Any member of your family with arrhythmia and using pacemaker will require a firmware update. The pacemakers in question are produced by St. Jude Medical – which was bought by Abbott earlier this year.
To further narrow down on the most significant devices that need a firmware update, the manufacturer explains that “Models which need updating were made before 28th of August.” All other devices manufactured from the said date have the implant pre-installed with the latest software.
According to estimates by the FDA, about 465,000 United States residents have vulnerable devices implanted in them. The programming of the devices can be easily adjusted with effective equipment that’s easy to find. The equipment cost from about $15 to $3000.
Changes are however being made to ensure tough security around the implants. Some of the new adjustments include users providing authorization so as to communicate with the pacemaker. For you wondering what a firmware is, this is basically software for hardware. Updating this software helps in correcting some anomalies that give hackers access to the device.
Updating the firmware is not a Do-It-Yourself task. Patients will have to visit a healthcare provider. The specialist will set the device to operate in backup mode. Ensure you ask your doctor the risks and benefits because there’s a possibility of you losing some data and settings. In worst cases, the device may get bricked.
Patients should be aware that any device connected to the Internet or Wi-Fi can be hacked. However, there are also a number of benefits associated with connectivity. These include effective health care services that are much safer. Just like any other medical decision, you have the liberty to say know if they think the risks are higher than the benefits.
Abbott’s Jude Medical pacemakers have in the past been found to contain different vulnerabilities. For instance, the FDA warned in January that the company’s Radio-Frequency pacemakers and the respective transmitters could allow intruders to instigate inappropriate shocks or wrong pacing.
St Jude Medical cardiac devices release appropriate shocks to curb fast beating hearts or provide pacing for slow heart rhythms. They are normally implanted on the upper chest area beneath the skin. These are then connecting to the heart through insulated wire referred to as leads. Patients use the cardiac device under three special circumstances; when the heart: is too slow, too fast or requires coordination after failed heart treatment.