(Reuters) - Barnaby Jack, a celebrated computer hacker who forced bank ATMs to spit out cash and sparked safety improvements in medical devices, died in San Francisco, a week before he was due to make a high-profile presentation at a hacking conference.
The New Zealand-born Jack, 35, was found dead on Thursday evening by "a loved one" at an apartment in San Francisco's Nob Hill neighborhood, according to a police spokesman. He would not say what caused Jack's death but said police had ruled out foul play.
The San Francisco Medical Examiner's Office said it was conducting an autopsy, although it could be a month before the cause of death is determined.
Jack was one of the world's most prominent "white hat" hackers - those who use their technical skills to find security holes before criminals can exploit them.
His genius was finding bugs in the tiny computers embedded in equipment, such as medical devices and cash machines. He often received standing ovations at conferences for his creativity and showmanship while his research forced equipment makers to fix bugs in their software.
Jack had planned to demonstrate his techniques to hack into pacemakers and implanted defibrillators at the Black Hat hackers convention in Las Vegas next Thursday. He told Reuters last week that he could kill a man from 30 feet away by attacking an implanted heart device.
"He was passionate about finding security bugs before the bad guys," said long-time security industry executive Stuart McClure, who gave Jack one of his first jobs and also had worked with him at Intel Inc's McAfee, the computer security company.
"He was one of those people who was put on this earth to find vulnerabilities that can be exploited in a malicious way to hurt people," McClure said.
Jack became one of the world's most famous hackers after a 2010 demonstration of "Jackpotting" - getting ATMs to spew out bills. (reut.rs/gIGXVq) A clip of his presentation has been viewed more than 2.6 million times on YouTube.
Jack's most recent employer, the cyber security consulting firm IOActive Inc, said on its Twitter account: "Lost but never forgotten our beloved pirate, Barnaby Jack has passed."