U.S. company to update pacemaker software against hacking risks

Source: Xinhua| 2017-08-30 13:32:17|Editor: ying
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SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 29 (Xinhua) -- Abbott Laboratories, an American health care company, said Tuesday it would update firmware, or embedded software, for its pacemakers so that the implanted device for correcting abnormal heart rhythms is less likely to be hacked.

"Connected devices are having a significant positive impact for patients and their health," said Robert Ford, executive vice president of Medical Devices at Abbott.

"To further protect our patients, Abbott has developed new firmware with additional security measures that can be installed on our pacemakers."

The update is for pacemakers with radio frequency (RF) telemetry capabilities, meaning that they are wirelessly connected by radio waves for recording and transmitting the readings of the devices.

It includes data encryption, operating system patches, and the ability to disable network connection features.

However, the company headquartered in Lake Bluff, Illinois, clarified that there have been no reports of unauthorized access to any patient's implanted device, and cited an advisory issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to claim that compromising the security of these devices would require a highly complex set of circumstances.

It recommended patients with implanted pacemakers to talk with their physicians to determine if the update is right for them.

At the same time, Abbott said it is releasing another update, known as the Battery Performance Alert, for its implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs), so as to alert physicians for a possible risk of premature battery depletion.

The move followed what the company did in October 2016, when it notified physicians and patients that a subset of ICD and cardiac resynchronization therapy defibrillator (CRT-D) devices manufactured between January 2010 and May 2015 could potentially experience premature battery depletion due to short circuits from lithium clusters.