US FDA recalls 500,000 pacemaker units due to ‘hacking’ risk

Image by St. Jude Medical, Pinterest

After reports that pacemakers may be targeted by hackers, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is recalling almost 500,000 pacemakers.

pacemaker or artificial pacemaker is a medical device which uses electrical impulses, delivered by electrodes contracting the heart muscles, to regulate the beating of the heart.

Such medical devices may be manipulated, and much worse, pacing may be deliberately altered and batteries depleted. And that is why it needs to be updated immediately, the Verge has disclosed.

The FDA is now requiring anyone with heart arrhythmia to surrender all pacemakers — specifically those made by Abbott’s St. Jude Medical, so that it can undergo a firmware update designed to address the vulnerabilities.

The FDA discovered last May that hackers simply need “commercially available” items to tamper with the devices’ programming. Scary, right?

FDA also estimated that around 465,000 devices are vulnerable to such hacking.

The FDA also stressed that pacemakers with Wi-Fi connectivity carry the highest risk of being hacked, but noted the benefits of connectivity including more convenient health care.