Listen to Your Heart: Security and Privacy of Implantable Cardio Foo
2021-12-28, 20:00–20:40 (Europe/Berlin), Chaos-West TV
Language: English

We analyzed the ​security of the environment around heart pacemakers, implantable cardioverter-defibrillators, and heart monitors.
We also took the hard way to get our data from manufacturers and hospitals with EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) inquiries.


Modern implantable cardiologic devices communicate via radio frequency techniques and nearby gateways to a backend server on the internet. Those implanted devices, gateways, and servers form an ecosystem of proprietary hardware and protocols that process sensitive medical data and is often vital for patients’ health.

This talk gives an overview about the security of this ecosystem, from technical gateway aspects, via the programmer, to configure the implanted device, up to the processing of personal medical data from large cardiological device producers. Based on a real-world attacker model, we evaluated different devices and found several severe vulnerabilities. Furthermore, we could purchase a fully functional programmer for implantable cardiological devices, allowing us to re-program such devices or even induce electric shocks on untampered implanted devices.

Additionally, we sent several General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR, ger: DSGVO) inquiries to manufacturers of implantable cardiologic devices and hospitals, revealing non-conforming processes and a lack of awareness about patients’ rights and companies’ obligations. This, and the fact that many vulnerabilities are still to be found after many vulnerability disclosures in recent years, present a worrying security state of the whole ecosystem.

IT Security PhD student at Muenster University of Applied Sciences.
Previously 9 years in embedded/automotive IT Security.

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IT Security PhD student at Max Planck Institute for Security and Privacy (MPI-SP) in the Embedded Securtity Group