Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Can a pacemaker be hacked?"
I read about hackers messing wirelessly with pacemakers. Is this possible? How can I combat them?
You are correct that recent news reports did investigate the possibility of wireless 'hacking' of pacemakers. However, as with many news reports about medical issues, the headlines are often not entirely reflective of reality. First, you should not worry that your pacemaker is about to be hacked.
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There has never been a case of this happening and yet for people who have pacemakers in place, there is a very real risk of harm or even death without the pacemaker. By sheer numbers, you are overwhelmingly more likely to come to harm without a needed pacemaker than you are due to someone else 'hacking' your pacemaker. Furthermore, several key facts about the study that reported the possibility of pacemaker hacking need to be emphasized. The team that hacked into a pacemaker involved a large group of scientists from two different universities and $30,000 worth of sophisticated equipment. In addition, the device that they used to hack the pacemaker was placed within 2 inches of the pacemaker itself--which was not implanted into a person--in a laboratory setting. Although this study showed it was theoretically possible to hack into a pacemaker, the circumstances under which it was done mean that practically it is still nearly impossible to do this in a real person. Please discuss these concerns with your cardiologist for more information.
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