Hacker Barnaby Jack Dies in San Francisco

Jack was scheduled to speak at Black Hat conference about the hacking vulnerabilities of medical devices

By Scott McGrew and Wires
|  Friday, Jul 26, 2013  |  Updated 10:59 PM PDT
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Scott McGrew provides the day's business and technology news.

Scott McGrew provides the day's business and technology news.

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A San Francisco computer security expert has died just days before he was to show the world a very strange hack.

Barnaby Jack, 35, died at his home in San Francisco Thursday, although the cause of death is still under investigation, San Francisco Deputy Coroner Kris Barbrich said.  Foul play was not suspected, according to reports.

Jack was perhaps best known for a YouTube video in which he stood up at a hackers’ conference in Los Angeles and showed how he could make an ATM spit out money without even touching it.

He told a reporter he was nervous on the drive down from San Jose because he had two ATMs in the back of his car. He wondered what he would tell police if he were pulled over.

Jack was to present at the 2013 Black Hat Conference, which starts Saturday in Las Vegas. In his talk, next week, he was scheduled to talk about the vulnerabilities of pacemakers--that they too could be hacked.

 The conference said it will not replace Jack's talk, but instead leave the slot open so people can commemorate his life and work.

Jennifer Steffens, the CEO of computer security firm IOActive, Inc., where Jack worked, called Jack one of the most accomplished security researchers. He dedicated his career to exploiting weaknesses in onboard computers in cars, automated teller machines and other so-called "embedded devices'' so that they can be better protected.
 
"A truly visionary man in many ways, Barnaby's recent critical research into the safety of medical devices such as pacemakers leaves behind a legacy that will never be forgotten,'' Steffens said in a statement. "IOActive will be working with the industry as a whole to ensure the advancements Barnaby started in this field will continue saving lives for years to come.''

He was survived by his mother and sister in New Zealand and girlfriend in California. 

Here's what Jack wrote about his planned Las Vegas presentation:

Implantable Medical Devices:

Hacking Humans In 2006 approximately 350,000 pacemakers and 173,000 ICD's (Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators) were implanted in the US alone. 2006 was an important year, as that's when the FDA began approving fully wireless based devices.

Today there are well over 3 million pacemakers and over 1.7 million ICD's in use. This talk will focus on the security of wireless implantable medical devices. I will discuss how these devices operate and communicate and the security shortcomings of the current protocols. Our internal research software will be revealed that utilizes a common bedside transmitter to scan for, and interrogate individual medical implants.

I will also discuss ideas manufacturers can implement to improve the security of these devices.

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