Abbott recalls 350,000 implantable defibrillators to protect against hacks

The fix: A firmware update that takes just 3 minutes to install.

Sean Hollister Senior Editor / Reviews
When his parents denied him a Super NES, he got mad. When they traded a prize Sega Genesis for a 2400 baud modem, he got even. Years of Internet shareware, eBay'd possessions and video game testing jobs after that, he joined Engadget. He helped found The Verge, and later served as Gizmodo's reviews editor. When he's not madly testing laptops, apps, virtual reality experiences, and whatever new gadget will supposedly change the world, he likes to kick back with some games, a good Nerf blaster, and a bottle of Tejava.
Sean Hollister
Lung X-Ray showing Pacemaker

If you rely on a tiny gadget to help your heart function, you might have wondered: Could it be hacked? 

Yes, it's theoretically possible. And that's why Abbott (formerly St. Jude Medical) is recalling some 350,000 implantable defibrillators to help protect patients from any spy-movie style assassination attempts or other issues. This follows a similar recall of 465,000 pacemakers last year

It's a voluntary recall, so patients are being told to consult with their doctors before coming in for the procedure -- which thankfully consists of a simple 3-minute wireless firmware update (using a wand, according to the pamphlet) instead of anything invasive.

The FDA-approved firmware update actually includes a pair of important-sounding fixes. In addition to some enhanced security, the update also comes with a way to detect if a device's battery drains abnormally quickly and alert the patient. 

The FDA and Abbott say they haven't had issues with any of the 50,000 firmware updates they've installed on devices like this so far.

Corrected 6:20 p.m. PT: To indicate that the devices are a new set of implantable defibrillators that need to receive the update, not the same 465,000 pacemakers recalled last year. We regret the error.

(Via ThreatPost)

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