Famed hacker Barnaby Jack has died, just a week before he was supposed to speak at a conference in Las Vegas about hacking pacemakers. He was 35.
Here are the top 10 facts you need to know about the world-renowned hacker and his untimely passing.
1. Jack Was Confirmed Dead Friday Morning
According to Reuters, the San Francisco Medical office confirmed Barnaby Jack’s death on the morning of Friday, July 26. The authorities gave no details or thoughts to the cause of or circumstances around the death.
His passing was also confirmed by his sister and employer via Twitter.
So humbled by the social media flood of people that loved @barnaby_jack . thank you all so much for your kind words.
— Amberleigh Jack (@Amberleigh_Jack) July 26, 2013
Lost but never forgotten our beloved pirate, Barnaby Jack has passed. He was a master hacker and dear friend. Here's to you Barnes!
— IOActive, Inc (@IOActive) July 26, 2013
2. He Died One Week Before Revealing a Pacemaker Hack That Can Kill a Man
Jack was set to give a presentation at this year’s Black Hat Conference in Las Vegas demonstrating a vulnerability in pacemakers that can allow a hacker to kill the user from 30 feet away. The New Zealand-born hacker was going to give a presentation titled “Hacking Humans.” Here is the teaser description on the conference’s website:
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.
Jack got the idea for the hack after watching an episode of Homeland, where terrorists planned to assassinate a US diplomat by hacking into his pacemaker. He made a post about it on his blog.
3. He Became World Famous After Demonstrating How to Make an ATM Spit Out Money
Barnaby Jack hit the big time in 2010 after demonstrating “Jackpotting” in front of a live audience. Jackpotting is the term given to the process of hacking an ATM and manipulating it to spit out money. Check out Jack’s demonstration above.
4. The Cyber Security Community Has Responded Through Twitter
As news of Jack’s death spread through Twitter, members of The hacker community shared their condolences for him and his family.
Great memory: Barnaby Jack shooting me in the face with water through a hacked insulin pump whilst doing shots. RIP Barns. You made me laugh
— Dave Marcus (@DaveMarcus) July 26, 2013
Needless to say, @barnaby_jack was a cool dude and one of my favorite researchers.
— Charlie Miller (@0xcharlie) July 26, 2013
Rest in peace @Barnaby_Jack. You will be missed.
— HD Moore (@hdmoore) July 26, 2013
RIP @barnaby_jack, you grimy bastard. I was just talking up about your awesome work last night. You'll be missed, bro.
— Dino A. Dai Zovi (@dinodaizovi) July 26, 2013
God, the stories. Nobody caused such hilarious trouble like @barnaby_jack. You kids with your lulz are about to learn about a PRO
— Dan Kaminsky (@dakami) July 26, 2013
5. He Also Was Known for Finding Security Vulnerabilities in Insulin Pumps
While working for McAfee, Barnaby Jack was responsible for a high-profile hack, manipulating a security vulnerability in Medtronic insulin pumps. According to a 2012 Bloomberg article, Jack was able to remotely control several types of the company’s pumps. Some of the exploits gave him the ability to override safety warnings and manipulate dosages.
“These are computers that are just as exploitable as your PC or Mac, but they’re not looked at as often,” said Jack in the interview. “When you actually look at these devices, the security vulnerabilities are quite shocking.”
6. He Joined an Elite Team Tasked With Electronic Security in Cars
Barnaby Jack was not only tasked to find vulnerabilities in medical equipment, but also with the modern car. He was a part of an elite team compiled to find future and current vulnerabilities in computers placed in modern cars. According to an article in The Register, because of the increasing reliance of embedded processors in modern vehicles, the is a very present and viable threat to the safety of our cars.
Bruce Snell, the executive in charge of MaCafee’s research into car security, had this to say:
“If your laptop crashes you’ll have a bad day, but if your car crashes that could be life threatening. I don’t think people need to panic now. But the future is really scary.”
This information is especially interesting in light of recent electronic car hacks that have stumped police. A string of attacks on the west coast has revealed that someone has figured out how to remotely unlock any vehicle with a ‘mystery box.’ According to a Today.com article, surveillance video shows thieves approaching a vehicle with a device in hand. After aiming it at a vehicle and activating the device, the car unlocks and gives the thieves access to the inside of the vehicle. Watch a CNN video of the crime above.
7. Barnaby Jack Was a ‘White Hat’ Hacker
Barnaby Jack was what is called a white hat hacker. In the hacking world, there is a spectrum of hacker defined by legality of their actions. They are identified by color: white, grey and black hats. Black indicates illegal hacking practices. Grey indicates practices that skirt the line of legality. And white indicates someone who hacks for good. Jack was one of the good guys. His career was dedicated to researching and manipulating exploits in devices for companies, in an effort to make their product safer and more secure.
8. Conspiracy Theorists Are Questioning His Death
Heart hacker Barnaby Jack dies a week before showing his new assassination tool http://t.co/bMrSdTu3TV
— r/conspiracy (@rconspiracy) July 26, 2013
With the limited information released so far about the circumstances of Jack’s death, members of the Internet have already begun speculating on conspiracy theories about what really happened. Much of the discourse like to point out that the even the mainstream media headlines and sub-headlines, like in this BBC article, seem to acknowledge the suspicious timing of the death.
Above Top Secret: Conspiracy: Barnaby Jack dies days before he was to reveal how to remotely kill pacemaker patients http://t.co/SZmipJbe4R
— area51 . org (@area51org) July 26, 2013
Expect more of these theories to develop as more information becomes available.
9. Jack Had Been In The Electronic Security Industry for Over a Decade
Barnaby Jack had been working in the electronic security industry for over a decade at the time of his death. His resume includes positions held at major corporations like McAfee, Juniper Networks, eEye digital Security and FoundStone. Jack was working for IOActive, an application security company, at the time of his passing.
10. Ubisoft Made An Ode To Jack Before His Death
Video game developer Ubisoft has made a promotional video for their up-coming next generation game, Watch Dogs, in which they make an ATM spray out cash in an ode to Jack. Check out the video above.