In our increasingly connected, digitized world, hacking has become a huge problem that can damage your computer, smartphone, or other mobile devices and give criminals access to your personal and financial information. But what if these ne'er-do-wells could hack into one of the most vital organs in your body — your heart?
That’s the concern with 465,000 radio-frequency-enabled pacemakers, according to Consumerist. And that’s why the U.S. Food & Drug Administration has sent out a warning to pacemaker users, their physicians, and their caretakers.
The implantable pacemakers in question are from Abbott (formerly St Jude Medical) and can send and receive signals outside the user’s body. Cardiac resynchronization therapy pacemakers are also the subject of the warning. Accent, Anthem, Accent MRI, Accent ST, Assurity, and Allure pacemakers are the ones at risk.
Because of that outside connection, the FDA has determined that hackers could potentially gain enough access to cause the battery life in the pacemaker to decrease rapidly or, even more frighteningly, harm the patient by changing the pace of their heartbeat. Thankfully, no such hacking is known to have occurred. But officials are taking the threat seriously.
So what’s being done to solve the problem? A firmware update has been created to upgrade the devices in a way that will boost their security. The update needs to be done at a health care facility, but the pacemaker will continue to operate during the process. The pacemaker does not need to be removed and replaced.
Patients are urged to talk to their health care providers about whether their particular devices need the firmware update. They can also contact Abbott at 1-800-722-3774 for more information about it. Visit the FDA for more details.
Let your friends and loved ones know! In other safety alerts, a new phone scam involves a stranger on the other end beginning their conversation with four key words that can cost you a whole lot of money if you don’t answer them correctly.