mHealth security and privacy – a research agenda

While mHealth has the potential to increase healthcare quality, expand access to services, reduce costs, and improve personal wellness and public health, such benefits may not be fully realized unless greater privacy and security measures are implemented, according to a new paper published in the June issue of Computer.

Professors David Kotz (Dartmouth), Carl A. Gunter (University of Illinois), Santosh Kumar (University of Memphis), and Jonathan P. Weiner (Johns Hopkins), in their paper  (Privacy and Security in Mobile Health: A Research Agenda) challenge the research community to tackle several critical challenges related to security and privacy in mHealth: data sharing and consent management; access control and authentication; confidentiality and anonymity; mHealth smartphone apps; policies and compliance; accuracy and data provenance; and security technology.

With 45 percent of Americans facing chronic disease, which accounts for 75 percent of the annual $2.6+ trillion spent on healthcare, and many developed countries facing aging populations, mobile technology can serve as a great resource to help address these problems – provided mHealth companies and other stakeholders are able to meet the privacy and security challenges associated with these technologies.

For additional information contact Professor David Kotz, the Champion International Professor in the Department of Computer Science at Dartmouth College.

The article can be found in the June issue of Computer.

Ransomware – The Latest Scourge Affecting Medical Institutions

With recent, well-publicized ransomware attacks on major medical institutions, THaW researchers have been tasked with explaining this uptick in nefarious activity. Within the last fortnight, both Kevin Fu and Avi Rubin have been interviewed concerning securing medical IT systems and ransomware specifically. Here are links to their interviews: Fu (MIT Technology Review) and Rubin (C-SPAN Washington Journal).

Dr. Lehmann joins THaW team

Please welcome Dr. Chris Lehman from Vanderbilt University to the THaW team.  Chris is Professor for Pediatrics and Biomedical Informatics at Vanderbilt University where he directs the Clinical Informatics Fellowship Program. He conceived and launched the journal Applied Medical Informatics, devoted to original research and commentary on the use of computer automation in the day-to-day practice of medicine and he served as the Editor-in-Chief since its inception. In 2009, he co-edited Pediatric Informatics, the first textbook on this subject. Dr. Lehmann served on the board of the American Medical Informatics Association from 2008 to 2013 and served two terms as the organization’s secretary. In 2010, he was inducted as a fellow into the American College of Medical Informatics, in 2014 he was elected to the American Pediatric Society, and in 2012 he became a Vice Presidents of the International Medical Informatics Association in charge of the IMIA Yearbook. In 2015, he became President-Elect of the International Medical Informatics Association. In 2010, Dr. Lehmann was appointed Medical Director of the Child Health Informatics Center for the American Academy of Pediatrics, where he was involved in developing the Model Pediatric EHR Format. Dr. Lehmann serves on the federal Health IT Policy Committee and as the chair of the Examination Committee of the American Board of Preventive Medicine, Subcommittee for Clinical Informatics.

Wanda: Securely Introducing Mobile Devices (Magically)

Wanda concept in actionTHaW PhD student, Tim Pierson, along with the Wanda team have built a ‘magic wand’ that simplifies the integration of new medical devices into existing wireless networks. A detailed description of their work is found below in the abstract to their recently accepted IEEE INFOCOM paper.

Abstract: Nearly every setting is increasingly populated with wireless and mobile devices – whether appliances in a home, medical devices in a health clinic, sensors in an industrial setting, or devices in an office or school. There are three fundamental operations when bringing a new device into any of these settings: (1) to configure the device to join the wireless local-area network, (2) to partner the device with other nearby devices so they can work together, and (3) to configure the device so it connects to the relevant individual or organizational account in the cloud. The challenge is to accomplish all three goals simply, securely, and consistent with user intent. We present a novel approach we call Wanda – a `magic wand’ that accomplishes all three of the above goals – and evaluate a prototype implementation.

A prepublication version is available here.

Kotz Articulates the Security Challenges of Health and Wellness

Professor Kotz, at the request of the Center for the Clinical Trials Network, presented a webinar on the 26th of January 2016. His presentation was an overview of the THaW research agenda as it relates to the security challenges faced by health care professionals.

Here is a brief synopsis of Professor Kotz’s presentation:

The Mobile medical applications offer tremendous opportunities to improve quality and access to care, reduce cost, and improve individual wellness and public health. These new technologies, whether in the form of software for smartphones as specialized devices to be worn, carried, or applied as needed, may also pose risks if they are not designed or configured with security and privacy in mind. For example, a patient’s insulin pump may accept dosage instructions from unauthorized smartphones running a spoofed application; another patient’s fertility-tracking app may be probing the Bluetooth network for its associated device, exposing her use of this app to nearby strangers. In this webinar, Dr. David Kotz presents an overview of the security and privacy challenges posed by mobile medical applications, including important open issues that require further research.

To view the entire presentation click here.

A ‘Crisis’ in Healthcare Security

Recently Professor Avi Rubin was invited to speak at Enigma — a new security conference geared towards those working in both industry and research, recently launched by the USENIX Association.

According to Professor Rubin, health care information security is in crisis. In this presentation, Professor Rubin emphasizes the numerous vulnerabilities of our health care system. These vulnerabilities range from overt circumventing of security protocols to blissful ignorance of network security concerns.

Professor Rubin goes on to identify what makes cybersecurity in health care different from other fields, such as financial services. Finally, Professor Rubin offers a ‘Top Ten’ list of actions the health care community can take right now to improve the cybersecurity of health care.

Watch Rubin’s talk on YouTube.

Virtual Fitness Coach from Under Armour

“It’s fascinating, what’s happening, and very exciting,” – Avi Rubin

At the 2016 Consumer Electronic Show (CES) last week, Under Armour announced a suite of products and services relevant to THaW research topics.  Journalists sought out THaW researcher (and PI at Johns Hopkins) Avi Rubin for comment.

First the athletic wear maker unveiled its first-ever collection of fitness devices, a suite of products dubbed UA HealthBox that included a wristband, a heart-rate monitor and a Wi-Fi-enabled scale — plus a separate “smart shoe” and Bluetooth headphones. It also upgraded the UA Record application that powers those devices. … “It’s fascinating, what’s happening, and very exciting,” said Avi Rubin, a Johns Hopkins computer science professor…. (Lorraine Marbella, Baltimore Sun, January 9, 2016 [http://www.baltimoresun.com/business/under-armour-blog/bs-bz-under-armour-ibm-watson-20160109-story.html])

This is the first of many such announcements we anticipate throughout 2016. The challenge facing the THaW community is how to ensure that privacy is protected and the collected data is secure.

NSF website highlights THaW

NSF highlighted the THaW project on its website last week, gaining notice in blogs like Politico morning eHealth, the HealthITSecurity, and FierceMobileHealthcare.  NSF’s article describes THaW research on mobile-app security and on the authentication of clinical staff to clinical information systems, among other things.

mAuditor: A mobile Auditing Framework for mHealth Applications

Enormous numbers of mobile health applications (mHealth apps) developed recently on mobile devices (e.g. smart-phones, tablets, etc.) have enabled health status (e.g. sleep quality, heart rate, etc.) monitoring that is readily accessible to average mobile device users. Typically, such mHealth apps involve active usage of mobile device resources, such as on-board sensors, network bandwidth, etc. The rapid increase of these applications prompted the US FDA agency to put in place regulations on mHealth app risk assessment. But these existing and upcoming regulations have not yet been accompanied by a mobile auditing framework, which provides real-time monitoring of mHealth apps’ resource usage and triggers alerts to users if abnormal resource usage patterns are detected.

Haiming mAuditor graphic

In this project, we develop a mobile auditing framework shown in the figure to the left (mAuditor Framework). The mAuditor runs as a separate process along with mHealth apps and other general purpose apps (e.g. Facebook, Gmail, etc.). The mAuditor consists of the profiler and the analyzer. The profiler collects the system trace and parse the trace if needed. The parsed trace is utilized by the analyzer, which analyzes the resource usage patterns and compare them with predefined configurations. mAuditor with its low-overhead and non-obtrusive design, monitors mHealth apps’ resource usage patterns in real-time and triggers alerts to users if abnormal resource usage patterns are detected.

This work is being spearheaded by Haiming Jin and supported by his colleagues at UIUC, Ting-yu Wang and Klara Nahrstedt.

 

 

Klara Nahrstedt honored

nahrstedt_thawACM SIGMOBILE’s group N2Women announced today its inaugural list of “10 women in networking/ communications that you should know”, including THaW co-PI Klara Nahrstedt from UIUC.  She is in impressive company – details on these ten amazing women, as well as quotes from the many people who nominated these women, are available at the link below.

http://sites.ieee.org/com-n2women/files/2015/12/Top10-20151.pdf

Congratulations to Professor Klara Nahrstedt!