Medical device manufacturer St. Jude Medical was recently slammed by MedSec, a security startup specializing in medical devices, for selling products plagued with serious vulnerabilities.
MedSec conducted a study over the last 18 months analyzing the products of four major medical device vendors and found that St. Jude Medical’s implantable cardiac devices and Merlin@home transmitters are the least secure and riddled with vulnerabilities.
According to a report released Thursday by MedSec and Muddy Waters, St. Jude’s products lack proper authentication and encryption and are in turn putting patients’ lives at risk with these devices.
MedSec’s most startling claims were that a hacking attack could either disrupt pacemaker functions or drain the battery from 50 feet away.
Instead of reporting these findings immediately to St. Jude, MedSec contacted Muddy Waters and made a deal with a Wall Street to short-sell St. Jude’s stock. St. Jude shares tanked on Thursday, leaving the company to halt trading on Friday afternoon.
MedSec admits their decision to go public with the information instead of presenting St. Jude with their findings is beneficial to their business but also claims their main goal was always to warn patients about the risks associated with these medical devices.
St. Jude published a statement on its website on Friday stating, “While we would have preferred the opportunity to review a detailed account of the information, based on available information, we conclude that the report is false and misleading.”
The company claims that findings in the report only applied to older versions of Merlin@home devices and that security updates are automatically sent to these products once they become available. St Jude also refuted claims that hackers could drain an implanted device’s battery, stating these cardiac devices have a wireless communication range of only 7 feet once implanted into a patient.
“To put it plainly, a patient would need to remain immobile for days on end and the hacker would need to be within seven feet of the patient. In the unlikely instance that was to occur, the implanted devices are designed to provide a vibratory patient alert if the battery dips below a certain threshold to protect and notify patients.”
St. Jude also claims the report is inconsistent when describing how hackers could crash implanted devices, stating the researchers appear to lack the fundamental understanding of medical device technology and that the screenshots shown in the report do not actually show a crashed system at all.