Monday 23 September 2019

Cyber threat: 'Children are capable of hacking heart pacemakers to kill'

Warning: Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon talks to Irish Independent Technology Editor Adrian Weckler at the Secure Computing Forum at the RDS, Dublin. Photo: Mark Condren
Warning: Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon talks to Irish Independent Technology Editor Adrian Weckler at the Secure Computing Forum at the RDS, Dublin. Photo: Mark Condren
Ian Begley

Ian Begley

Children as young as 11 could be capable of killing people by hacking into their pacemakers, a cyber security conference has been told.

Those in attendance at yesterday's Secure Computing Forum in the RDS were warned that failing to prepare for cyber threats could lead to fatal consequences in the near future.

John P Carlin, former assistant attorney general for the US Department of Justice National Security Division, said that as billions of new devices are being connected, the likelihood of an attack dramatically increases.

"We're on the cusp of a revolution with the Internet Of Things," he said.

"Now the consequences are even higher. We are seeing pacemakers being put into people's hearts which can be deployed without encryption, where an 11-year-old using publicly available software can hack into and kill.

"I'm not saying it's a bad idea to have smart cities or driverless cars, but before we make this transformation, we need to know what the risks are and what the adversaries are doing."

Minister Charlie Flanagan who opened the Secure Computing Forum 2019 pictured with Michael O’Hora, Group Managing Director Data Solutions and Roberta McCrossan, group marketing director of data solution. Photo: Mark Condren
Minister Charlie Flanagan who opened the Secure Computing Forum 2019 pictured with Michael O’Hora, Group Managing Director Data Solutions and Roberta McCrossan, group marketing director of data solution. Photo: Mark Condren

In 2017, almost half a million pacemakers were recalled by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) due to fears that their lax cybersecurity could be hacked to run the batteries down or even alter the patient's heartbeat.

The manufacturer then issued a firmware update which was applied by medical staff to patch the security holes.

Yesterday's conference brought together cyber and security experts from the technology and business communities to discuss how best to protect businesses and individuals.

Irish Independent

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