Abbott Laboratories patches heart devices that could pose cybersecurity risks

31 Aug 2017


Abbott Laboratories issued updates this week to heart devices that have been plagued with potentially life-threatening battery problems and cybersecurity issues.

Abbott has notified patients and doctors that it was offering a software update for implantable cardiac pacemakers made by St Jude Medical, a company acquired by Abbott earlier this year.

The update is meant to protect pacemakers, which have computer systems embedded in them, against cyberattacks.

The move could affect around 464,000 US patients.

The software update was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration earlier this month, which is recommending that patients and doctors discuss the update at their next appointments.

The FDA has not called for the devices be removed or replaced.

Patients need to visit their doctors to get the updates, which should take about three minutes. The FDA noted that no cases of patients being harmed due to cybersecurity issue have been reported.

The FDA said in a notice issued in January that the devices were vulnerable to attacks that might allow a third-party to control them remotely.

Abbott spokesman Jonathon Hamilton said in a statement yesterday that Abbott is "resolving all old St. Jude medical issues."

"These planned updates further strengthen the security and device management tools for our connected cardiac rhythm management devices," Hamilton said.

Last year, the US government launched a probe into claims the devices were vulnerable to potentially life-threatening hacks that could cause implanted devices to pace at potentially dangerous rates or cause them to fail by draining their batteries.

The company also identified a problem with lithium batteries in its heart devices last year and recalled some of its 400,000 implanted heart devices last October due to risk of premature battery depletion, which was linked to two deaths in Europe.

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