Security researcher Trammell Hudson analyzed the AirSense 10 — the world’s most widely used CPAP — and made a startling discovery. Although its manufacturer says the AirSense 10 would require “significant rework to function as a ventilator,” many ventilator functions were already built into the device firmware. Its manufacturer, ResMed, says the $700 device solely functions as a continuous positive airway pressure machine used to treat sleep apnea. It does this by funneling air into a mask. ResMed says the device can’t work as a bilevel positive airway pressure device, which is a more advanced machine that pushes air into a mask and then pulls it back out. With no ability to work in both directions or increase the output when needed, the AirSense 10 can’t be used as the type of ventilator that could help patients who are struggling to breathe. After reverse-engineering the firmware, Hudson says the ResMed claim is simply untrue.
To demonstrate his findings, Hudson on Tuesday is releasing a patch that he says unlocks the hidden capabilities buried deep inside the AirSense 10. The patch is dubbed Airbreak in a nod to jailbreaks that hobbyists use to remove technical barriers Apple developers erect inside iPhones and iPads. Whereas jailbreaks unlock functions that allow the installation of unauthorized apps and the accessing of log files and forensic data, Airbreak allows the AirSense 10 to work as a bilevel positive airway pressure machine, a device that many people refer to as a BiPAP. “Our changes bring the AirSense S10 to near feature parity with BiPAP machines from the same manufacturer, boost the maximum pressure output available, and provide a starting point to add more advanced emergency ventilator functionality,” Hudson and other researchers wrote on their website disclosing the findings. The researchers say Airbreak isn’t ready to be used on any device to treat a patient suffering from COVID-19 — it’s simply to prove that the AirSense 10 does have the ability to provide emergency ventilator functions, and to push ResMed to release its own firmware update that unlocks the ventilator functions.
It’s nice to say this, but the respiration functions on the Airsense are probably not medically validated and thus not necessarily safe to use. When does fairly safe become acceptable in an emergency?