FDA issues alert about hacking vulnerabilities in heart defibrillators

21 Mar 2019

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a safety alert about two cybersecurity vulnerabilities affecting Medtronic implantable cardiac devices, programmers, and home monitors. The first vulnerability can allow improper access to data sent between a defibrillator and an external device like patients’ home monitors or in-office programming computers used by doctors. The second vulnerability enables an attacker to retrieve private sensitive information out of the device (e.g. patient name and past health data). The FDA is not expected to issue a recall and the vulnerabilities will be addressed through a future software patch.

Explore the issues

The Internet of Things (IoT) includes a wide range of Internet-connected devices, from highly digitalised cars, home appliances (e.g. fridges), and smart watches, to digitalised clothes that can monitor health. IoT devices are often connected in wide-systems, typically described as 'smart houses' or 'smart cities'.

Cybersecurity is among the main concerns of governments, Internet users, technical and business communities. Cyberthreats and cyberattacks are on the increase, and so is the extent of the financial loss. 

Yet, when the Internet was first invented, security was not a concern for the inventors. In fact, the Internet was originally designed for use by a closed circle of (mainly) academics. Communication among its users was open.

Cybersecurity came into sharper focus with the Internet expansion beyond the circle of the Internet pioneers. The Internet reiterated the old truism that technology can be both enabling and threatening. What can be used to the advantage of society can also be used to its disadvantage.


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