Vulnerability Identified in Medtronic Encore and Carelink Programmers

ICS-CERT has issued an advisory about a vulnerability that has been identified in certain Medtronic CareLink and Encore Programmers. Some personally identifiable information (PII) and protected health information (PHI) stored on the devices could potentially be accessed due to a lack of encryption for data at rest.

The programmers are used in hospitals to program and manage Medtronic cardiac devices and may store reports containing patients’ PII/PHI. An attacker with physical access to one of the vulnerable programmers could access the reports and view patients PII/PHI. The vulnerability would require a low level of skill to exploit.

The vulnerability, tracked as CVE-2018-18984 (CWE-311), was identified by security researchers Billy Rios and Jonathan Butts of Whitescope LLC who discovered encryption was either missing or stored PII/PHI was not sufficiently encrypted. The vulnerability has been assigned a CVSS V3 base score of 4.6.

The vulnerability is present in all versions of CareLink 2090 Programmers, CareLink 9790 Programmers, and the 29901 Encore Programmers.

Medtronic has advised all hospitals to stop using CareLink 9790 Programmers for any purpose as they have reached end-of-life and are no longer supported.

Users of CareLink 2090 and 29901 Encore Programmers should ensure that PII/PHI is stored on the Programmers for the shortest possible time. The devices are only intended to be used to store PII/PHI for short periods of time until the information can be transferred to other medical systems or printed to paper reports.

All affected programmers allow reports containing PII/PHI to be manually deleted when they are no longer required. Users of all vulnerable Programmers should ensure that all PII/PHI is deleted from the devices before they are decommissioned.

Medtronic has also advised users to ensure physical control of the Programmers is maintained at all times to prevent unauthorized access and only to use legitimately obtained Programmers and not to use any that are supplied by a third party.

Author: Steve Alder has many years of experience as a journalist, and comes from a background in market research. He is a specialist on legal and regulatory affairs, and has several years of experience writing about HIPAA. Steve holds a B.Sc. from the University of Liverpool.