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Cyber-Physical Attacks are Finally for Real
A range of crucial sectors now face a growing risk of attacks that experts say have the potential to cause cyber-physical mayhem. Here’s a heart stopper: On March 21, the Department of Homeland Security and the FDA alerted cardiologists, hospitals, and patients that hundreds of thousands of implanted defibrillators, programmers, and heart monitors could be hacked, “potentially impacting product functionality.” While the FDA noted that some company's devices contain telemetry vulnerabilities that can allow cyber tampering and the interception of patient data, there have been no reports of harm to actual patients. The companies, meanwhile, say they are working to patch the vulnerabilities. The news is chilling for a number of reasons. It shows that cyber bad guys can practically reach inside our very bodies. (In fact, the white hat hacker Billy Rios showed last summer that he could access control of an implanted pace maker and deliver or withhold shocks to the heart). It also suggests that nothing is safe from malicious tampering in our increasingly wired world. “Anything that is part of a physical network, that is monitored by sensors and uses computing control systems, can be infiltrated by incoming corrupted data,” says Lalitha Sankar, an associate professor at Arizona State University’s school of electrical, computer, and energy engineering.
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