Hacking Your Heart

June 23, 2011

If they can hack your home computer, your mobile phone, apps, your store, your social networks, your bank account, your gaming system, your medical records, your school records, the government and its records, and pretty much anything anyone sets their mind to – isn’t it is only a matter of time until someone finds a way to hack your heart?

Not through a musical hook or melody that you can’t shake. Or a well timed smile by someone your soul connects with. Or a box of chocolates. Or a poem. People have been penetrating the human heart with those Luddite-ish tools since the beginning of civilization.

I was thinking more about that electronic device your doctor might have implanted into your chest to keep your heart beating. Or the little box stuck in your gut to help you and your pancreas regulate your diabetes.  Or the mini-computer surgically inserted to keep your neurological systems on track.

Hacking the medical miracles put inside people to let them live longer with more normal lives.

While to my limited knowledge nobody has reported a single case and the likelihood is extremely low, it is a real enough concern that the New England Journal of Medicine published a paper about the need to improve security last year.

Why?

This market is booming. Uses for this technology haven’t even been dreamed of yet. These new devices are not only addressable and programmable via a wireless network in the doctor’s office, but many feature real-time monitoring at home or via public networks so you can be scanned remotely and the devices adjusted in a constant immediate feedback loop to maintain your health.

Now why someone would want to mess with someone else’s body parts is anyone’s guess.

Ready for a few science fiction-y scenarios?

A high profile business guy might one day become the target of a very personal hostile take-over.

Or a politician might be coerced into early retirement (permanent or otherwise). Or forced to vote a particular way through some kind of body blackmail. Kind of an invisible fence for people.

Or teams of robotniks ( I am thinking they might be people with the same condition and the same implanted medical device) might be re-wired, like so many botnets – hijacked into some kind of evil-doer mischief.

People really up to no good could figure out more strategic ways to exploit body data then I could ever dream of.

Cue the Trumpet Fanfare.

At least people are working on a solution. MIT Researchers have come up what they say is something that will thwart these kinds of attacks.  They suggest a second transmitter people wear to jam the signals of any hackers.

Turning you into a walking radio station.

Between your watch that talks to your sneakers.  Your bluetooth headset that talks to your mobile device.  Your mobile device that talks to the cloud.  Your pacemaker that talks to your doctor. Your MIT transmitter that prevents it from being hacked… seems to me we will all be emitting more signals than Fukushima before long.

Wonder what that will do to my aura?

——————–update 8/8/11—————-

A computer wiz and diabetic has successfully hacked his own insulin pump remotely – in what he said simulated a denial of service attack, he disrupted his treatment.  He disclosed his self-attack at a conference, but didn’t give out technical details or say how he did it.  As he put it, “lives are at stake here.”

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