The Cybersecurity 202: The FDA is embracing ethical hackers in its push to secure medical devices

THE KEY

The Food and Drug Administration campus in Silver Spring, Md. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

With cyberattacks on medical devices on the rise, the Food and Drug Administration is turning to ethical hackers to help regulators and manufacturers root out vulnerabilities on machines that could put patients’ lives at risk.

Medical device makers have pushed back against ethical hackers who have exposed vulnerabilities in their products, and the FDA has typically tried to stay neutral in the debate. But now agency officials say they’re embracing the “white hat” hacking community — and are stepping up efforts to collaborate.

As an example, the FDA points to its recent collaboration with a pair of security researchers who uncovered bugs in devices used to program pacemakers that could allow attackers to remotely change settings on patients’ cardiac implants. The researchers’ findings led the FDA and the manufacturer, Medtronic, to issue rare cybersecurity warnings last week. The company is halting

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