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Barnaby Jack, Computer Hacker, Dead at 36

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Barnaby Jack
Barnaby Jack, a computer-security researcher has died at 36, according to the San Francisco medical examiner's office. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

July 26 (Bloomberg) -- Barnaby Jack, a computer-security professional with a showman’s flair for demonstrating technical weaknesses in ATMs and medical devices, has died. He was 36.

He died in San Francisco, where he lived, according to the city’s medical examiner. No further details were given.

Jack was director of embedded device security at IOActive Inc., a security consulting firm with offices in Seattle and London. He was known for attention-grabbing hacking demonstrations that made him a sought-after presenter at computer-security conferences. In 2010, he showed how he could break into ATM machines and make them spit out cash, a stunt he performed live on stage at the annual Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas.

Last year, he showed a security flaw in an insulin pump that allowed him to hack the device from as far as 300 feet away, forcing it to dispense the hormone. Jack used a see-through mannequin’s torso, blood-colored liquid and a handheld antenna to bring the demonstration to life.

“We certainly don’t want people to lose faith in these devices,” Jack said July 18 in an interview with Bloomberg News. “But certainly any threats, no matter how minor, need to be eliminated.”

He had another medical-device presentation planned for next week at Black Hat, one of the security industry’s top venues for researchers. In the interview last week, Jack described how he was planning to show that he could scan a range of up to 30 feet for a certain model of pacemaker and defibrillator -- he didn’t say which one -- override the software running on it and send high-voltage shocks to the device, shorting out its circuitry.

‘Legendary’ Life

Jack’s talk scheduled for Aug. 1 won’t be replaced, according to Trey Ford, general manager of Black Hat.

“We have lost a member of our family,” Ford said in a statement. “Everyone would agree that the life and work of Barnaby Jack are legendary and irreplaceable.”

Ford said Jack was able to make complex technology understandable to nontechnical people. Jack also worked with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and medical-device makers to close the security holes he found.

“Beyond his work in our industry, Barnaby was an incredibly warm hearted and welcoming individual with a passion for celebrating life,” he said. “We all have a hilarious and upbeat story about Barnaby. He is truly a shining example of what we love about this community.”

Jack is survived by his mother and sister in New Zealand, and a girlfriend in California, according to IOActive.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jordan Robertson in San Francisco at jrobertson40@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tom Giles at tgiles5@bloomberg.net; Nick Turner at nturner7@bloomberg.net

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