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Medtronic has a plan in motion to handle a missing encryption of sensitive data vulnerability in its 9790 CareLink Programmer, 2090 CareLink Programmer, and 29901 Encore Programmer, according to a report with NCCIC.

As part of the intended functionality of this device, it may store protected health information (PHI) or personally identifiable information (PII). Successful exploitation of the vulnerability, discovered by Researchers Billy Rios and Jonathan Butts of Whitescope LLC, may allow an attacker with physical access to an affected programmer to access PHI or PII stored on the device.

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The following versions of Medtronic CareLink and Encore Programmers, devices used by trained personnel at hospitals and clinics to program and manage Medtronic cardiac devices, suffer from the vulnerability:
• CareLink 9790 Programmer, all versions
• CareLink 2090 Programmer, all versions
• 29901 Encore Programmer, all versions

In the vulnerability, the affected products do not encrypt or do not sufficiently encrypt the following sensitive information while at rest:
• PII. Some combination of personal data that enables the unique identification of an individual. PII is defined as “information that can be used to distinguish or trace an individual’s identity, either alone or when combined with other personal or identifying information linked or linkable to a specific individual.”
• PHI. Some combination of PII and associated health related data.

Cyber Security

CVE-2018-18984 is the case number assigned to this vulnerability, which has a CVSS v3 base score of 4.6.

The products see use in the healthcare and public health sectors. They also see action on a global basis.

No known public exploits specifically target this vulnerability. This vulnerability is not exploitable remotely. However, an attacker with low skill level could leverage the vulnerability.

The CareLink 9790 Programmer has been placed into end-of-life status and is no longer supported by Medtronic. Medtronic recommends users no longer use the 9790 for any purpose.

The CareLink 2090 and 29901 Encore programmers store PHI and PII as part of their normal operating procedure. Medtronic recommends when devices are storing PHI/PII it should be retained on these programmers for the least amount of time necessary, and should be handled, managed and secured in a manner consistent with the applicable laws for patient data privacy. Contact a Medtronic representative for proper disposal and PHI/PII retention setting instructions.

All affected programmers allow for the manual deletion of programmer-generated reports, which could contain PHI/PII. Medtronic recommends users delete these reports when no longer needed and prior to any disposition of the programmer.

Ireland-based Medtronic recommends users take additional defensive measures to minimize the risk of exploitation. Specifically, hospitals and clinicians should:
• Maintain strict physical control of the programmer
• Use only legitimately obtained programmers and not ones provided by any third party
• Proper disposal of these programmers and the associated electronic media storing data is critical for the continued protection of any PHI and PII residing on the programmer

Medtronic released a security bulletin related to this advisory that is available, with contact information.

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