Dick Cheney: My defibrillator could have been hacked

If you watch Showtime's Emmy-award winning series "Homeland," you're familiar with the scene: a terrorist hacks into the vice president's heart device, killing him in his office without a warning. Seems dramatic, but could it happen in real life? Former vice president Dick Cheney thinks so.

Cheney (pictured) has suffered five heart attacks, the first at age 37. Doctors replaced an implanted defibrillator near his heart in 2007, according to the Associated Press. On Sunday night's "60 Minutes," Cheney told CNN's Sanjay Gupta that when he was in office, his doctors turned off the wireless function of his implanted cardiac defibrillator (ICD) "in case a terrorist tried to send his heart a fatal shock."

Years later, Cheney said he watched the episode of "Homeland" where the vice president suffers such a fate and dies.

"I found it credible," Cheney told "60 Minutes." "I know from the experience we had, and the necessity for adjusting my own device, that it was an accurate portrayal of what was possible."

Cheney and his cardiologist, Jonathan Reiner, M.D., have published the book "Heart: An American Medical Odyssey," that chronicles Cheney's heart problems and medical breakthroughs over his political career.

Cheney's claims aren't too outlandish. Last September, the Government Accountability office released a report stating that the Food and Drug Administration needs to pay more attention to the information security risks for implantable medical devices--such as heart defibrillators and insulin pumps--including the threat of hacking and sabotage.

Those risks have grown along with the devices' accessibility via wireless technology, the GAO report said, and were proven in recent tests in which information security researchers deliberately manipulated two types of devices.

In late August, it was reported that the non-profit Center for Internet Security announced it is developing guidelines on securing Internet-enabled medical devices, beginning with insulin pumps, and plans to release them by the end of the year. In June, the Department of Homeland security warned that it found password vulnerability problems in in 300 medical devices being made by 40 companies.

To learn more:
- read the Associated Press article
- read the CNN article

Related Articles:
Non-profit to develop security guidelines for Internet-enabled med devices
FCC's final rules bring hospitals closer to mobile monitoring
Startups eager to get mobile medical devices to market
FDA failing to capture privacy issue info on medical devices
Insulin pumps susceptible to remote hack attacks

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