About David Kotz

David Kotz is the Pat and John Rosenwald Professor in the Department of Computer Science at Dartmouth College. He previously served as Interim Provost, as Associate Dean of the Faculty for the Sciences, as the Executive Director of the Institute for Security Technology Studies, and on the US Healthcare IT Policy Committee. His research interests include security and privacy, pervasive computing for healthcare, and wireless networks. He has published over 230 refereed papers, obtained over $80m in grant funding, and mentored nearly 100 research students. He is a Fellow of the IEEE, a Distinguished Member of the ACM, a 2008 Fulbright Fellow to India, a 2019 Visiting Professor at ETH Zurich, and an elected member of Phi Beta Kappa. He received his AB in Computer Science and Physics from Dartmouth in 1986, and his PhD in Computer Science from Duke University in 1991.

Welcome Tim Pierson

PiersonThe THaW team is pleased to welcome Dr. Timothy Pierson as an affiliated faculty member.  Tim is no stranger to THaW – he completed his PhD within the THaW project, publishing his work about systems named Wanda, SNAP, and CloseTalker.

Tim now serves as a Lecturer at Dartmouth College after completing a PhD in Computer Science in 2018. He previously spent more than 20 years working in strategy, technology, finance, and operations. He has led teams in a wide variety of organizations including: technology start-ups, hedge funds, management consulting, non-profits, and the military.

Tim’s PhD research focused on the privacy, security, and usability of wireless sensor networks. His work on a project called Wanda was featured in over 200 newspaper, radio and television stations, including the New York Times and the Washington Post.

Most recently before returning to school, Tim worked with a technology start-up where he developed and deployed 11,000 Internet of Things sensors in San Francisco to help the city manage traffic congestion and parking. Tim served on the firm’s Management Committee and was Chief Technology Officer.

Before the start-up, Tim was the Chief Technology Officer at Elliott Associates, one of the oldest and largest hedge funds in the world. There he led teams in New York, London, Hong Kong and Tokyo.

Prior to joining Elliott, Tim was a consultant at McKinsey & Company where he advised senior executives and helped craft the long-term strategic vision for companies in financial services, supply chain, energy, aviation, telecom, and retailing.

Before McKinsey & Company, Tim was Assistant Security Manager at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York where he managed projects and helped lead the Museum’s force of nearly 500 security guards that protect the multi-billion dollar art collection and ensure public safety.

Tim began his career in the US Air Force Special Operation Command where he conducted unconventional warfare operations around the world.

Tim holds a PhD in Computer Science as well as an MBA from Dartmouth College, and a BS in Computer Science from Michigan Tech.

Temperature sensors may be vulnerable in safety-critical systems

Recent THaW research has demonstrated that temperature control systems, particularly in sensitive devices like infant incubators or industrial thermal chambers, can be affected by (and thus manipulated by) electromagnetic waves. The team included Prof. Kevin Fu and Research Investigator Sara Rampazzi from THaW, and Prof. Xiali Hei and PhD student Yazhou Tu from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

The vulnerability is due to the weakness of analog sensing components. In particular, the change in the measured temperature is due to an unintended rectification effect in amplifiers induced by injecting specific electromagnetic interferences though their temperature sensors.

The researchers demonstrate how it is possible remotely manipulate the temperature sensor measurements of critical devices, such as infant incubators, thermal chambers, and 3D printers. “In infant incubators for example, changing temperature sensor measurement can raise the risk of temperature-related health issues in infants, such as hyperthermia and hypothermia, which in turn can lead in extreme cases to hypoxia, and neurological complications.” Rampazzi says.

In a recent paper describing the attack method, the authors also describe a defense against the vulnerability, proposing a prototype of an analog anomaly detector to identify unintended interferences in the affected frequency range.

The paper was presented this month at the ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security (CCS), and is available at DOI 10.1145/3319535.3354195.

Short video demos of the effect on an infant incubator are available on YouTube.



Wanda – Securely introducing mobile devices

A few years ago we posted a fun video describing our Wanda approach to securely introduce mobile devices to a Wi-Fi network… or to each other.  Wanda was published in INFOCOM 2016; since then we’ve refined the technique with the CloseTalker (MobiSys 2019) and SNAP (MobiCom 2019).  We just made a new Wanda video, which we hope you’ll enjoy!

With a Laser, Researchers Say They Can Hack Alexa, Google Home or Siri

The New York Times just posted a story about this startling new research from Kevin Fu and his group, funded in part by THaW.  The research team posted more details here.


Data breach remediation efforts and their implications for hospital quality

Screen Shot 2019-10-04 at 4.16.34 PMA new THaW paper in Health Sciences Research from Choi, Johnson, and Lehmann explores the relationship between breach remediation efforts and hospital care quality.  They found that hospital time‐to‐electrocardiogram increased as much as 2.7 minutes, and 30‐day acute myocardial infarction mortality increased as much as 0.36 percentage points, during the 3‐year window following a breach.  They conclude that breach remediation efforts were associated with deterioration in timeliness of care and patient outcomes. Thus, breached hospitals and HHS oversight should carefully evaluate remedial security initiatives to achieve better data security without negatively affecting patient outcomes.


SNAP: Proximity Detection with Single-Antenna IoT Devices

THaW graduate Tim Pierson will present SNAP, a method for proximity detection with single-antenna IoT devices at MobiCom in October.

SNAP - Likelihood of declaring proximityAbstract: Providing secure communications between wireless devices that encounter each other on an ad-hoc basis is a challenge that has not yet been fully addressed. In these cases, close physical proximity among devices that have never shared a secret key is sometimes used as a basis of trust; devices in close proximity are deemed trustworthy while more distant devices are viewed as potential adversaries. Because radio waves are invisible, however, a user may believe a wireless device is communicating with a nearby device when in fact the user’s device is communicating with a distant adversary. Researchers have previously proposed methods for multi-antenna devices to ascertain physical proximity with other devices, but devices with a single antenna, such as those commonly used in the Internet of Things, cannot take advantage of these techniques.

We present theoretical and practical evaluation of a method called SNAP — SiNgle Antenna Proximity — that allows a single-antenna Wi-Fi device to quickly determine proximity with another Wi-Fi device. Our proximity detection technique leverages the repeating nature Wi-Fi’s preamble and the behavior of a signal in a transmitting antenna’s near-field region to detect proximity with high probability; SNAP never falsely declares proximity at ranges longer than 14 cm.

In Proceedings of the ACM International Conference on Mobile Computing and Networking (MobiCom), Article #1-15, October 2019. ACM Press. DOI 10.1145/3300061.3300120.

Welcome Michel Reece

Michel.ReeceThe THaW team is pleased to welcome Prof. Michel Reece, of Morgan State University, as a new collaborator in research on security and privacy issues medical devices.  Together with Tim Pierson (Dartmouth) and David Kotz (Dartmouth), Michel and her group will investigate the potential for identifying devices through features sensed at the PHY and MAC layers, and validating the authenticity of such devices.

Dr. Michel A. Reece currently serves as the interim Chairperson and  the director of  the laboratory for Advanced RF/Microwave Measurement and Electronic Design (ARMMED) in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Morgan State University (MSU). Her research interests include wireless  signal characterization and device authentication of IoT devices, high frequency device characterization and modeling for III-V semiconductors, RF/ MMIC circuit design, adaptable electronic components for software defined radio applications and most recently power amplifier development for THz mobile communication applications. She received her B.S from Morgan State in 1995 and her M.S.E.E.  from Penn State in 1997, both in Electrical Engineering. She became the first female recipient at MSU  to obtain her doctorate degree in Engineering in 2003.  Previously, she served as a post- doctoral researcher of the Microwave Systems Section of the RF Engineering Group at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory Space Department. She has a passion for education where she has developed curriculum for the RF Microwave Engineering concentration offered at MSU, one out of a few HBCUs to have a dedicated program in this area. She has also taught as an adjunct faculty member at Johns Hopkins University Engineering Professionals Program.

Intrusion Detection for Medical Body Area Networks (MBAN)

THaW researchers recently presented a new paper at the Workshop on Decentralized IoT Systems and Security (DISS).  [PDF]

Abstract:  Medical Body Area Networks (MBAN) are created when Wireless Sensor Nodes (WSN) are either embedded into the patient’s body or strapped onto it. MBANs are used to monitor the health of patients in real-time in their homes. Many cyber protection mechanisms exist for the infrastructure that interfaces with MBANs; however, not many effective cyber security mechanisms exist for MBANs. We introduce a low-overhead security mechanism for MBANs based on having nodes infer anomalous power dissipation in their neighbors to detect compromised nodes. Nodes will infer anomalous power dissipation in their neighbors by detecting a change in their packet send rate. After two consecutive violations, the node will “Tattle” on its neighbor to the gateway, which will alert the Telemedicine administrator and notify all other nodes to ignore the compromised node.

TattleTale-DISS19 figure1

Proposed Telemedicine Scenario

Securing the life-cycle of Smart Environments (video)

This one-hour talk by David Kotz was presented at ARM Research in Austin, TX at the end of January 2019.  The first half covers some recent THaW research about Wanda and SNAP and the second half lays out some security challenges in the Internet of Things.  Watch the video below.

Abstract: The homes, offices, and vehicles of tomorrow will be embedded with numerous “Smart Things,” networked with each other and with the Internet. Many of these Things interact with their environment, with other devices, and with human users – and yet most of their communications occur invisibly via wireless networks.  How can users express their intent about which devices should communicate – especially in situations when those devices have never encountered each other before?   We present our work exploring novel combinations of physical proximity and user interaction to ensure user intent in establishing and securing device interactions. 

What happens when an occupant moves out or transfers ownership of her Smart Environment?  How does an occupant identify and decommission all the Things in an environment before she moves out?  How does a new occupant discover, identify, validate, and configure all the Things in the environment he adopts?  When a person moves from smart home to smart office to smart hotel, how is a new environment vetted for safety and security, how are personal settings migrated, and how are they securely deleted on departure?  When the original vendor of a Thing (or the service behind it) disappears, how can that Thing (and its data, and its configuration) be transferred to a new service provider?  What interface can enable lay people to manage these complex challenges, and be assured of their privacy, security, and safety?   We present a list of key research questions to address these important challenges.

Meaningful healthcare security

Juhee Kwon and Eric Johnson recently published an article aimed at the question Does “meaningful-use” attestation improve information security performance? 

Certification mechanisms are often employed to assess and signal difficult-to-observe management practices and foster improvement. In the U.S. healthcare sector, a certification mechanism called meaningful-use attestation was recently adopted as part of an effort to encourage electronic health record (EHR) adoption while also focusing healthcare providers on protecting sensitive healthcare data. This new regime motivated us to examine how meaningful-use attestation influences the occurrence of data breaches. Using a propensity score matching technique combined with a difference-in-differences (DID) approach, our study shows that the impact of meaningful-use attestation is contingent on the nature of data breaches and the time frame. Hospitals that attest to having reached Stage 1 meaningful-use standards observe fewer external breaches in the short term, but do not see continued improvement in the following year. On the other hand, attesting hospitals observe short-term increases in accidental internal breaches but eventually see long-term reductions. We do not find any link between malicious internal breaches and attestation. Our findings offer theoretical and practical insights into the effective design of certification mechanisms.

The full paper appears in in MIS Quarterly. Vol. 42, No. 4 (December), 1043-1067, 2018. DOI: 10.25300/MISQ/2018/13580