HACKING THE PACEMAKER

EPISODE: NCIS – NEED TO KNOW (2012)

Short Synopsis:
Tamer Hassan guest starred as Arms Dealer Agah Bayar.

Tamer Hassan guest starred as Arms Dealer Agah Bayar.

Alan Katzenbach, a lawyer, waits for Gibbs with his client, a chief petty officer named Leland Wiley. Wiley was busted for drugs and wants to trade information he has — which he claims involves national security and Agah Bayar, the arms dealer.

Gibbs is interested. Wiley comes over to talk, but grabs his heart and drops to the ground.

Gibbs comes for the update from Ducky. Turns out, Wiley had top security clearance and his workstation is locked down. They haven’t been able to connect him to Bayar yet.

Abby calls Gibbs to the lab. She tells him Wiley’s pacemaker was linked into a computer to monitor it. Someone hacked it and raised his heart rate up to more than 400 beats per minute.

“Somebody murdered Wiley by remote control,” she says.

What does this have to do with me?

Well, I’m glad you asked. This particular episode so intrigued the heart surgery team at Beth Israel Deaconess in Boston (where I had all that heart surgery in March 2013), that they decided to see if it really could be done. Could you “attack” a pacemaker by remote control? One of the people that performed the experiment was my surgeon.

They did it, though my surgeon pointed out you had to be no more than a couple of feet from the pacemaker to affect it. But you could affect it. So, they contacted the manufacturer who changed the programming to protect it from potential attack. Cool, yes?

In theory, nobody can hack my pacemaker. I am safe from remote terrorists. Which is good, because worrying about it was keeping me up at night.

I find it oddly comforting. Garry finds it disturbing. I suppose I can see where he’s coming from. He doesn’t like thinking about the mechanical and electronic stuff that keeps me alive. It would creep me out too, but I’m a bit of a geek and can detach from it on a personal level and get into the coolness of the electronics.

RBB-pacemaker

It is  kind of creepy. However, it doesn’t matter. No matter how I feel about it, I’ve got this thing in my chest. It keeps my heart beating. If my heart beat on its own, I wouldn’t need the pacemaker.

Every time I go for a pacemaker checkup, they use a little machine and briefly stop the pacemaker to see if my heart will beat without it. My heart stops beating. Talk about creepy. It is an icky feeling. Anyone with a pacemaker knows what I mean.

The blue tooth remote functions work. They are (in theory) more secure than they were before the NCIS episode aired and the guys got curious. Remote functionality is important. After all, I might need a remote tune-up. Blue tooth lets my doctor access my pacemaker from … how far? I don’t actually know. A considerable distance, whatever that is.

Garry — again — doesn’t want to know about it. I pointed out if someone murders me, this is potentially important evidence. He would rather not think about it.

So there we are. Too creepy?

I can feel my pacemaker. It’s in the hollow by my left shoulder. The outline is visible. I can feel the wires, the connections through my skin. It’s impossible to ignore. I might as well find it interesting. It’s part of me, after all.



Categories: Computers, Health, Humor, Medical, Software, Technology, Television

Tags: , , , , , , ,

17 replies

  1. A lot of our technology today is possible because of science fiction – what we thought was futuristic on programmes like Star Trek are now common place. But a scary thought that some one could control your pacemaker from a distance (albeit a short distance).

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  2. my Dad has a pacemaker and refers to going in for a Tuneup (like a car), my Mum doesn’t like it either. Dad think he’s the bionic man, I’m just grateful it keeps him alive, and you of course (and everyone in general).

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  3. You’re right. I don’t want to think about this as a reality. The coppers always blame it on the Samoan Husband.

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  4. They are neat gizmos, Marilyn. I’m not surprised to hear that they could be hacked. I would imagine there are certain areas where they advise people with pacemakers to keep their distance because of potential interference.
    Leslie

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  5. This was fascinating, Marilyn. My husband rolls his eyes at a lot of the computer ‘things’ NCIS does and says, “It doesn’t happen that fast.” He is a retired computer techie so loves to see how Abby is able to pull things up on her screen in an blink of an eye. He will get a kick out of this one!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m like Gibbs when it comes to computers. But even I know you don’t get stuff as fast as Abby, Timmy and all the other TV computer wizards.

      Liked by 1 person

    • They do things way faster on TV and in the movies than is possible in reality. They transfer a whole hard drive of data to a thumb drive … in seconds? Really? I want that thumb drive! Lots of stuff like that. Most of it can be done … sort of of … but either not ‘as shown’ and certainly not at those supersonic speeds. They show DNA results coming back in hours. NOT. Laptop batteries that run at full power for days without recharging. NOT. Thumb drives that CAN hold a gazillion gigs of data … AND transfer it in mere seconds. Absolutely no way. Maybe someday, but not yet. But you know, that’s TV and the movies. I get equally upset by incredible inaccuracies in history and other things. This particular episode was more interesting because it was personal. And it turned out to be sort of possible.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. My late brother in law had on for many years and now my dad has one, although they only inserted it when he was about 98 years old. He had to go for a check once a year, but they said that it would not be so necessary now. He says he never thinks of it, but I know you can see them under the skin (learnt it all in the first aid group). I did not know about the computer attacks, very interesting, although I don’t think it would bother my dad at the moment. It was an interesting piece. I think my heart is oine of the few functioning organs in my body at the moment. I had an EKG once before an op, and they found no cause for anxiety.

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