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Implantable medical devices may expose patients to security, privacy risks; solutions suggested
Date:3/12/2008

ter distances. These devices typically receive short-range wireless signals over several feet, but new technologies are expanding that reach even farther, creating the potential for information to be intercepted en route.

We hope our research is a wake-up call for the industry, said Kohno, an assistant professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Washington. In the 1970s, the Bionic Woman was a dream, but modern technology is making it a reality. People will have sophisticated computers with wireless capabilities in their bodies. Our goal is to make sure those devices are secure, private, safe and effective.

Fu, an assistant professor of computer science at UMass Amherst, noted that the study developed several prototype defenses. One of our primary contributions is the invention of three defense mechanisms that require no battery power, making them potentially easy to incorporate in the devices without extensive redesigning. While there has been much research that explores the biological safety of implantable medical devices, there is limited understanding about the related issues of wireless security and privacy. Understanding the security and privacy of implantable devices is essential for protecting the nations health and cyber infrastructure.

The researchers experiments used an implantable cardiac defibrillator, a sophisticated device that automatically regulates the heart beat by sending small electrical signals to the heart to stimulate the heart rate or by delivering a large shock to restore a potentially fatal heart rhythm back to normal. Implantable defibrillators have improved survival in selected patients at risk for sudden cardiac death, and millions of the devices have been implanted worldwide. The model used in the researchers experiment contained computers and radios that allow health-care practitioners to diagnose patients, read and write private medical information, and adjust the devices therapy sett
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Contact: Hannah Hickey
hickeyh@u.washington.edu
206-543-2580
University of Washington
Source:Eurekalert

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