Saturday, December 14, 2013

Hacking the heart signal

Imagine this....

You're the vice president of the United States. You have a heart attack and are fitted with an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator or ICD. At your bedside is a monitor that pulls readings from your ICD at 2 every morning and sends them to a computer at your cardiologist's office. An enterprising terrorist discovers a way to hack those signals. He sends a rogue signal to the Veep's ICD causing it to generate a massive shock that stops the Veep's heart and kills him.

I didn't make that up. It was a recent plot on the Showtime series Homeland. I read about it in this morning's edition of the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle. It was part of a story about former V.P. Dick Cheney 's Friday stop in Cheyenne to promote the book he co-wrote with his daughter Liz and his cardiologist about his long battle with heart disease. The book is Heart: An American Medical Odyssey. 

Cheney received an ICD in 2007. When he discovered its remote signal, he had the technicians disable it, stymieing any attempt by a hacktivist to hijack the signal and transform Cheney's main muscle into a bleeding heart. That's not the way he put it. But that's the way this bleeding heart interpreted it. He did have them disable the signal, which shows an active imagination and more than a little bit of paranoia. But any politician that started two interminable wars and considered waterboarding a patriotic act has a right to his paranoia.

Thinking back, it would have been keen to attend the noon book-signing and talk yesterday hosted by the Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce. Tickets were $50 apiece and that included a copy of the book. The last time I attended a book-signing by a conservative stalwart was in 1995 when I waited in line for hours to get Newt Gingrich's Restoring the Dream. It was a present for my conservative father. I would have done almost anything for my conservative father, including buying a Gingrich or Cheney book and even running for the U.S. Senate in Wyoming. Alas, my father passed in 2002 and has no more need of books or Senate seats.

Dick Cheney and I share a few cardiac traits. He had his first heart attack in Cheyenne, the first of five. I had my one and only heart attack in Cheyenne. He has an ICD and I have an ICD. As far as I know, none of my foes in the right-wing blogosphere has tried to hijack my signal, but that's only as far as I know. Cheney and I both have a daughter, although mine is not running for the U.S. Senate. He has another daughter, too, a married lesbian with a nice family. That daughter is not running for the U.S. Senate, although it's OK with me if she moves back to Wyoming and runs against her right-wing sister. That's not going to happen.

I have to hand it to Dick Cheney -- the guy has been through the ringer, health-wise. Heart attacks and heart transplants and ICDs. Now that I'm a heart attack survivor, I appreciate his struggles. He is right when he says about symptoms: "When in doubt, check it out." He is shouting out the news that heart disease is still the number one killer in the U.S. He praises good ol' American know how when it comes to heart gadgets and surgical techniques.

I do find it odd that the most heartless of contemporary U.S. politicians has had to face mortality via a faulty heart. Literally, he is not heartless.

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