UT Medical expert: Likelihood of pacemaker hack 'extremely low'

An expert at UT says the likelihood of that hacking actually happening.. is extremely low.

An expert at UT Medical has said the likelihood of a pacemaker actually getting hacked is extremely low.

Dr. James Cox said Wednesday that none of the devices have ever been hacked but the recall is happening because a group recently discovered that it was possible.

The process would be extremely difficult for a hacker, Cox said.

However, doctors can update the device's firmware to protect its security just to be safe.

"The likelihood is low, the risk is low, but the same way you do a security update on your phone or computer, we want to make sure these devices are as safe as they can be," Cox said.

The recall does not mean anyone is suggesting the devices be removed, according to Cox. If you have one of these devices, your doctor will update it at your regular checkup. 

ORIGINAL STORY Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017:

The Food and Drug Administration has a big warning going out about pacemakers Tuesday morning.

There are half-a-million people out there with pacemakers vulnerable to hackers who might be able to switch off the devices.

The threat is so serious, the FDA is recalling those implantable pacemakers.

"These devices are implanted under the skin in the upper chest area and have connecting insulated wires called "leads" that go into the heart. A patient may need an implantable cardiac pacemaker if their heartbeat is too slow (bradycardia) or needs resynchronization to treat heart failure," according to the U.S. Food and Health Administration.

The pacemakers in question are Abbott, formerly St. Jude Medical's (RF)-enabled St. Jude Medical implantable pacemaker.

The Firmware which is software embedded in the device can be updated. Patients are encouraged to contact their doctors.

“There are no known reports of patient harm related to the cybersecurity vulnerabilities in the 465,000 (US) implanted devices impacted.”

For more information, there's a toll-free number you can call for details: 1-800-722-3774 or visit www.sjm.com/cyberupdate.

© 2017 WXIA-TV


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