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Nearly a Half Million Pacemakers could get Hacked


The pacemakers which are vulnerable of getting hacked must be updated by around half million people in US. On Tuesday, FDA has issued recall for several implantable pacemakers that are manufactured by St. Jude Medical, now the Abbott Laboratories. This recall says patients might be in risk of somebody taking advantage of the cybersecurity holes in susceptible pacemakers.


At present, 465,000 people having these implanted devices in US must go to their healthcare provider for receiving the firmware update which can fix these vulnerabilities. As per Abbott spokesperson, Candace Steele Flippin, around 280,000 devices were eligible for update outside US.


It is 2nd such update after St. Jude was acquired by Abbott early this year. All the old issues of St. Jude Medical are getting resolved by Abbott. Muddy Waters, activist firm run by the short seller Carson Block, has revealed one short position of St. Jude in the latter part of last year, claiming that the devices can be hacked. Muddy Waters was promptly sued by St. Jude in the court of Minnesota for defamation. St. Jude recalls few of their devices, in October, for the battery depletion defect.


The FDA in the alert warned the patients that any devices which connect to the internet or Wi-Fi are vulnerable of getting hacked. However, the agency further noted that the connectivity has their benefits -- including more convenient and safer health care. theverge.com posted on August 30th, 2017, that as with most of the things in medicine, the patients have to decide whether risks are worth taking.


Health regulators of US flagged safety risks of devices, and has issued one blistering warning letter in the early part of this year - criticizing the Abbott's ABT, -0.08% handling of problems. Abbott has acquired products with their $23.6 Bn purchase of the St. Jude Medical in Jan., and mentioned that the issues were cited in warning letter before this deal was closed.


Software patches underscore growing concern regarding cybersecurity of the medical devices, which are increasingly getting connected via internet or various other networks.


This is not first time when pacemakers of Abbott's Jude Medical units are found containing cybersecurity vulnerabilities. In Jan., one similar warning was issued by the FDA for implantable RF pacemakers as well as corresponding transmitters of the company, which might be exploited for administering unappropriate pacing or shocks.

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