Researchers Develop 'Hack-Proof' Pacemaker

Tuesday, 08 Oct 2013 01:41 PM

By Nick Tate

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Pacemakers, insulin pumps, and other implantable medical devices that connect to the Internet are vulnerable to insecure connections. But researchers at Rice University in Houston have developed a hack-proof pacemaker that guarantees patients who use devices that send important medical information via Wi-Fi are not at risk.
 
According to a report on the LiveScience Website, the new Rice device uses a patient's own heartbeat to generate a constantly changing password comprised of random numbers — effectively making the pacemaker secure from hackers.
 
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"We use the heartbeat as a random-number generator," said Farinaz Koushanfar, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the university. "Your heart generates pulses, and the timing of these pulses has a good amount of randomness to them…. This is a true random number generator."
 
There have been no known instances of someone hacking an implantable device, but the approach has been the subject of popular sci-fi TV scripts and security experts say the danger is real because most device makers don’t encrypt their wireless connections.
 
As a result, hackers can theoretically easily steal medical data from such devices causing pacemakers to emit shocks, insulin pumps to overdose their wearers, or ventilators to stop working, Live Science reports.
 
The Rice researchers said their program was designed to work with pacemakers, but could be used in other devices.

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