Hackers broke into the Big 3--and left the door open for months, report says

Dick Cheney--Courtesy of Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons BY-SA 2.0

It's a story that could confirm the worst fears of med tech implant wearers at the highest level of U.S. government: Some time during the first half of 2013, hackers reportedly broke into the computer networks of the big three medical device makers, and the breach might have stayed open for "several months."

Thomas Lee of the San Francisco Chronicle reported Saturday that Medtronic ($MDT), Boston Scientific ($BSX) and St. Jude Medical ($STJ) had all been hit by a "thorough" attack, possibly originating in China. He cited an unnamed source close to the companies. According to the report, the motive was unknown.

Last October, former Vice President Dick Cheney told 60 Minutes his doctor had ordered the wireless functionality of his heart defibrillator disabled, for fear it might be hacked in an assassination attempt. That's not paranoia, experts said at the time. This Chronicle report may have proven them right.

A spokeswoman for Boston Scientific reportedly declined to comment on any specific attack, but described the information in the Chronicle writer's information as "inaccurate."

"Like many companies, Boston Scientific experiences attempts to penetrate our networks and systems and we take such attempts seriously," Denise Kaigler, senior VP of corporate affairs and communications, wrote the Chronicle in an email. "We have a dedicated team to detect and mitigate attacks when they occur as well as to implement solutions to prevent future attacks."

According to Lee's source, the hackers were "very thorough." Signs reportedly point to an attack originating from China.

Medtronic, Boston Scientific and St. Jude first heard of the attacks from federal authorities, according to the report. Each company has formed a task force on the breach, the report said, but noted the companies declined to comment on any specific attack.

- read the Chronicle's report
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