clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The NSA wants to monitor pacemakers and other medical devices

New, 34 comments

Oh, and also the entire Internet of Things

The NSA is interested in collecting information from pacemakers and other biomedical devices for national security purposes, according to The Intercept. Richard Ledgett, the agency's deputy director, reportedly said at a conference yesterday that, "We’re looking at it sort of theoretically from a research point of view right now."

That suggests this isn't something the NSA is actively doing; and if it did have the ability, Ledgett indicates that it wouldn't exactly be a core source of information. "Maybe a niche kind of thing … a tool in the toolbox," he said, according to The Intercept.

The entire IoT could become a source of intelligence

Still, it's both wild and disconcerting to think that something as critical as a pacemaker could be monitored by a hacker. The NSA doesn't plan to stop at that, either. Perhaps less surprising is Ledgett's broader suggestion that the NSA is interested in using information from any internet-connected device.

National Intelligence director James Clapper indicated as much back in February, as The Intercept points out. The Guardian reports Clapper saying, "In the future, intelligence services might use the [Internet of Things] for identification, surveillance, monitoring, location tracking, and targeting for recruitment, or to gain access to networks or user credentials." Though he's stating it here as a hypothetical, it's not hard to imagine that the NSA views the addition of connectivity to more and more devices — be it a fridge or a pacemaker — as valuable.

Ledgett's reference to a pacemaker isn't as far fetched as it sounds, either. Researchers have been looking into flaws in connected pacemakers for years and showing that they can be taken advantage of.