Improving the Security of Sensors in Implantable Medical Devices

The type of sensors that detect a heartbeat in implanted cardiac defibrillators and pacemakers are vulnerable to tampering, according to University of Michigan researchers and others in an international team. In experiments in simulated human models, the researchers demonstrated that they could forge an erratic heartbeat with radio frequency electromagnetic waves. Theoretically, a false signal like the one they created could inhibit needed pacing or induce unnecessary defibrillation shocks. The researchers stress that they know of no case where a hacker has corrupted an implanted cardiac device, and doing so in the real world would be extremely difficult. Their research will simply enable future devices to be completely tamper-resistant.