Researcher Marie Moe woke up after emergency surgery in 2011 with a new pacemaker to correct a heart condition. What she didn’t realize at the time was that the lifesaving device in her chest exposed her to a completely different kind of threat.
The pacemaker keeping her alive has wireless connectivity capabilities — a detail her doctors didn’t tell her — meaning it could be hacked.
Moe was understandably disturbed that it never occurred to her doctors to tell her that her device had wireless capability, and they had not considered the security implications.
“They really had not thought about the pacemaker security at all,” she said.
Vulnerabilities like Moe’s are moving quickly from the rare to the extremely common. The FBI recently warned consumers that the proliferation of connected devices — from medical devices to security systems — means even more potential targets for malicious cybercriminals. That opportunity will be huge, as there will be more connected devices than humans by 2017, according to Gartner.
Security experts believe the tech industry needs to figure out how to secure the “Internet of Things” now, while the architecture is still being developed. That means building in features such as encryption, authentication and the ability to remotely update devices now, said experts.
“Software bugs could actually kill me,” said Moe.”That’s something developers should have in mind when they write the code for these devices.”