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Software Freedom’s latest target is medical devices

ZDNet Healthcare, July 29, 2010

Heart disease patients like Dick Cheney are vulnerable to buggy software and hack-attacks aimed straight at the devices implanted near their hearts. Worse, they have no legal recourse. But open source could offer hope. The Software Freedom Law Center says software is responsible for one-fourth of the problems commonly found in Implantable Medical Devices (IMDs) like pacemakers and defibrillators. If the software were open source, the group says, such problems could be found and ended. While admitting no deaths have yet been attributed to insecure IMD software, the group’s paper also described how researcher Kevin Fu was able to simulate a successful attack on an IMD in 2008. As devices become increasingly software-based the danger grows worse. The paper suggests open source would be more secure than current closed-source solutions, less subject to bugs, noting that patients could be protected from hackers by “cloaking” device access through encryption and passwords.