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7/26/2013
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In Appreciation: Barnaby Jack

Industry mourns passing of intrepid and charismatic security researcher

The security industry today is mourning the loss of famed researcher Barnaby Jack, who passed away unexpectedly last night in San Francisco.

Jack, a charismatic and creative white-hat hacker who was the director of embedded security research at IOActive, is best-known for his groundbreaking work in demonstrating potentially life-threatening vulnerabilities in insulin pumps, as well as his entertaining and enlightening demonstration at Black Hat USA 2010 of how to hack an ATM machine.

barnabyobit3 Barnaby Jack at Black Hat USA 2010
Photo Credit: Apneet Jolly

Jack was scheduled to present his latest research next week at Black Hat USA on an attack on implantable medical devices. "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," Jack wrote in his synopsis of the talk. "I will also discuss ideas manufacturers can implement to improve the security of these devices."

Black Hat USA organizers plan to use the time slot and location of Jack's scheduled "Implantable Medical Devices: Hacking Humans" talk on Aug. 1 for friends, colleagues, and others to gather and reflect on his life. He was scheduled to speak at 2:15 p.m. in Augustus 3 and 4 rooms at Caesars Palace.

Jack's insulin pump hack employed a wireless exploit that hijacked a Medtronic embedded insulin pump and demonstrated how to wirelessly crack the pump without even knowing the device identification code. His ATM "Jackpotting" hack showed how a criminal could compromise an ATM to steal cash, copy customers' ATM card data, or learn master passwords of the machines.

The industry is remembering him today with posts on Twitter and Facebook. "Lost but never forgotten our beloved pirate, Barnaby Jack has passed. He was a master hacker and dear friend. Here's to you Barnes!" tweeted his company, IOActive.

Jack "had the mix of skill, personality and showmanship necessary to get people to sit up, listen and fix their crappy systems," tweeted Alex Stamos, co-founder of iSec Partners, today.

Black Hat USA issued this statement today: "We have lost a member of our family. Everyone would agree that the life and work of Barnaby Jack are legendary and irreplaceable. Barnaby had the ability to take complex technology and intricate research and make it tangible and accessible for everyone to learn and grow from. Beyond his work in our industry, Barnaby was an incredibly warm hearted and welcoming individual with a passion for celebrating life. We all have a hilarious and upbeat story about Barnaby. He is truly a shining example of what we love about this community.

"Black Hat will not be replacing Barnaby's talk on Thursday, Aug. 1. No one could possibly replace him, nor would we want them to. The community needs time to process this loss. The hour will be left vacant as a time to commemorate his life and work, and we welcome our attendees to come and share in what we hope to be a celebration of his life. Barnaby Jack meant so much to so many people, and we hope this forum will offer an opportunity for us all to recognize the legacy that he leaves behind.

"Our deepest sympathies go out to Barnaby Jack's family and loved ones. Words cannot adequately describe how much he will be missed, but it is certain that Barnaby will NEVER be forgotten."

Prior to his position at IOActive, Jack worked for McAfee, Juniper Networks, eEye Digital Security, and Foundstone.

There has been no official word on the cause of Jack's death.

[Read related blog, "Barnaby Jack And The Hacker Ethos," by Mike Rothman.]

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