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Beware of hacking of your Medtronic pacemaker or defibrillator

Earlier this month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning to patients that have previously been outfitted with Medtronic pacemakers and defibrillators. They noted that their wireless communication systems (WCS) can be hacked into by cybercriminals.

In their statement, the FDA acknowledged that these devices are particularly vulnerable to being hacked into because their WCS is unencrypted. They note that this leaves their device open to being modified by outside forces. If they were hacked into, this could rob patients of their lives.

According to the FDA, at least 20 different Medtronic programming units, defibrillators and monitors so far have been found to have cybersecurity issues.

Medtronic pacemakers that are most vulnerable to being hacked send periodic electrical charges to patients' hearts to ensure that they maintain a regular heartbeat and blood flow. The other device at risk is the company's implanted defibrillator. It corrects abnormally fast or irregular heart rhythms.

Each of the defective medical devices affected by this security breach is outfitted with Conexus wireless technology. European researchers found that this company's WCS regularly transmits patient data to others without requiring authentication. This happens because the connection isn't encrypted. This makes it vulnerable to an outside attack.

Medtronic Inc., a Minnesota-based company, admitted that their unencrypted devices were vulnerable to being hacked soon after the FDA issued its consumer warning. The manufacturer, which is the largest producer of medical devices in the world, hasn't outlined their plans for remedying the situation though.

Even in light of the risks, the FDA warns that those who have these devices should keep using them. They note that the benefits in doing so far outweigh the risks. They have sent notices to physicians that have either previously or had plans to implant these devices to counsel their patients about the cybersecurity risk that they pose.

An increase in the use of the internet and cloud technologies have motivated many hackers to launch computer viruses in recent years. They launch these in hopes of getting their hands on your private data and disrupting your life. If the security of your pacemaker or defibrillator has been compromised, then an attorney can hold those who put consumers at risk accountable for their actions.

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