Information Leakage in Mobile Health Sensors and Applications

Anthony Louie recently completed his senior thesis, Information Leakage in Mobile Health Sensors and Applications. Here is the abstract from his thesis:

Mobile health sensors and applications are at risk to information leakage due to the vulnerabilities present on mobile platforms and the risks of using wireless sensors. A possible vulnerability that has not been adequately researched in this area however is data leakage related specifically to how the sensor and the mobile device are designed interact with each other. Such vulnerabilities may exist because of how the health sensors are implemented through the operating system and how hardware is used in the devices. Through an analysis of a mobile health sensor we provide an idea of the current state of mobile health sensor security.

A copy of Louie’s thesis can be found here – Anthony-Louie-Final-Information Leakage in Mobile Health Sensors and Applications

Security Threats to Android Apps

Dongjing He recently submitted her thesis, Security Threats to Android Apps, for her MS degree at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He’s research addressed two security vulnerabilities with mobile applications: deficiencies in mobile app development and design ambiguities of the Android operating system.

dongjing heSpecifically, He used a three stage study of mHealth apps to investigate potential breach opportunities arising from the reliance on unsecured Internet communications and third party servers. He also researched and discovered side-channel leaks on Android devices. He proposes defense strategies for both vulnerabilities.

Coverage of He’s work can be found in these two articles:

He’s thesis can be found here —

Dongjing He. Security Threats to Android Apps. MS Thesis, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2014. [pdf]

What it takes to move healthcare IT forward

Professor Rubin discusses why health care security is different than other areas of IT security. He also delves into the challenges facing securing healthcare IT and why health care professionals are resistant to cybersecurity.He also provides insight in trubin_thawo the goals and objectives of the Thaw Project.For more see Professor Rubins interview in Tech Target — ThaW Researcher “Avi Rubin on what it takes to move healthcare IT security forward” June, 2014MDDI News

Does “Meaningful-Use” Attestation Improve Information Security Performance?

We’re pleased to announce a new THaW paper, to appear in the Workshop on the Economics of Information Security (WEIS), June 23-24, to be held at Penn State.

Juhee Kwon and M. Eric Johnson.  Meaningful Healthcare Security: Does “Meaningful-Use” Attestation Improve Information Security Performance?

Voluntary mechanisms are often employed to signal performance of difficult-to-observe management practices. In the healthcare sector, financial incentives linked to “meaningful-use” attestation have been a key policy initiative of the Obama administration to accelerate electronic health record (EHR) system adoption while also focusing providers on protecting sensitive healthcare data. As one of the core requirements, meaningful-use attestation requires healthcare providers to attest to having implemented security mechanisms for assessing the potential risks and vulnerabilities to their data. In this paper, we examine whether meaningful-use attestation is achieving its security objective. Using a propensity score matching technique, we analyze a matched sample of 925 U.S. hospitals. We find that external breaches motivate hospitals to pursue meaningful use and that achieving meaningful use does indeed reduce such breaches. We also find that hospitals that achieve meaningful use observe short-term increases in accidental breaches, but see longer-term reductions. These results have implications for managers and policy makers as well as researchers interested in organizational theory and quality management.

We’ll post the paper itself after the workshop.

Hurdles for Genomic Data Usage Management

We are pleased to share an upcoming THaW paper to appear next month at  IEEE Workshop on Data Usage Management, a workshop colocated with the IEEE Symposium on Security & Privacy in May 2014.

Abstract: Our genome determines our appearance, gender, diseases, reaction to drugs, and much more. It not only contains information about us but also about our relatives, past generations, and future generations. This creates many policy and technology challenges to protect privacy and manage usage of genomic data. In this paper, we identify various features of genomic data that make its usage management very challenging and different from other types of data. We also describe some ideas about potential solutions and propose some recommendations for the usage of genomic data. [pdf]

ZEBRA: Zero-Effort Bilateral Recurring Authentication

The THaW team is pleased to announce the third of its three papers to be presented at the IEEE Symposium on Security & Privacy (aka ‘Oakland’) in May.

ZEBRA: Zero-Effort Bilateral Recurring Authentication
Shrirang Mare, Andrés Molina-Markham, Cory Cornelius, Ronald Peterson, and David Kotz

Abstract: Common authentication methods based on passwords, tokens, or fingerprints perform one-time authentication and rely on users to log out from the computer terminal when they leave. Users often do not log out, however, which is a security risk. The most common solution, inactivity timeouts, inevitably fail security (too long a timeout) or usability (too short a timeout) goals. One solution is to authenticate users continuously while they are using the terminal and automatically log them out when they leave. Several solutions are based on user proximity, but these are not sufficient: they only confirm whether the user is nearby but not whether the user is actually using the terminal. Proposed solutions based on behavioral biometric authentication (e.g., keystroke dynamics) may not be reliable, as a recent study suggests.

To address this problem we propose ZEBRA. In ZEBRA, a user wears a bracelet (with a built-in accelerometer, gyroscope, and radio) on her dominant wrist. When the user interacts with a computer terminal, the bracelet records the wrist movement, processes it, and sends it to the terminal. The terminal compares the wrist movement with the inputs it receives from the user (via keyboard and mouse), and confirms the continued presence of the user only if they correlate. Because the bracelet is on the same hand that provides inputs to the terminal, the accelerometer and gyroscope data and input events received by the terminal should correlate because their source is the same – the user’s hand movement. In our experiments ZEBRA performed continuous authentication with 85% accuracy in verifying the correct user and identified all adversaries within 11 s. For a different threshold that trades security for usability, ZEBRA correctly verified 90% of users and identified all adversaries within 50 s.

[view pdf]

Dynamic Searchable Encryption via Blind Storage

The THaW team is pleased to announce the second of its three papers to be presented at the IEEE Symposium on Security & Privacy (aka ‘Oakland’) in May.

Dynamic Searchable Encryption via Blind Storage
Muhammad Naveed, Manoj Prabhakaran, Carl A. Gunter

Abstract: Dynamic Searchable Symmetric Encryption allows a client to store a dynamic collection of encrypted documents with a server, and later quickly carry out keyword searches on these encrypted documents, while revealing minimal information to the server. In this paper we present a new dynamic SSE scheme that is simpler and more efficient than existing schemes while revealing less information to the server than prior schemes, achieving fully adaptive security against honest-but-curious servers.

We implemented a prototype of our scheme and demonstrated its efficiency on datasets from prior work. Apart from its concrete efficiency, our scheme is also simpler: in particular, it does not require the server to support any operation other than upload and download of data. Thus the server in our scheme can be based solely on a cloud storage service, rather than a cloud computation service as well, as in prior work.

In building our dynamic SSE scheme, we introduce a new primitive called Blind Storage, which allows a client to store a set of files on a remote server in such a way that the server does not learn how many files are stored, or the lengths of the individual files; as each file is retrieved, the server learns about its existence(and can notice the same file being downloaded subsequently), but the file’s name and contents are not revealed. This is a primitive with several applications other than SSE, and is of independent interest.

[view pdf]

SoK: Security and Privacy in Implantable Medical Devices and Body Area Networks

The THaW team is pleased to announce the first of its three papers to be presented at the IEEE Symposium on Security & Privacy (aka ‘Oakland’) in May.

SoK: Security and Privacy in Implantable Medical Devices and Body Area Networks
Michael Rushanan, Aviel D. Rubin, Denis Foo Kune, Colleen M. Swanson

Abstract: Balancing security, privacy, safety, and utility is a necessity in the health care domain, in which implantable medical devices (IMDs) and body area networks (BANs) have made it possible to continuously and automatically manage and treat a number of health conditions, ranging from cardiac arrhythmia to Parkinson’s disease. In this work, we provide a clear definition and overview of the problem space, categorizing relevant research results in academia with respect to threats and identifying trends and directions for future research. We identify three broad research categories aimed at ensuring the security and privacy of the telemetry interface, software, and physiological sensing interface layers. We find that while the security of the telemetry interface has received much attention in academia, both the threat of software exploitation and the sensor interface layer deserve further attention.

[view pdf]

Postdoc position available

Professor David Kotz is looking for a sharp graduate to join his team at Dartmouth as a postdoc in summer 2014.

Dartmouth shield logoThe postdoc will be involved in his research on security & privacy for healthcare information systems; in particular, his group is working on secure methods for use of mobile computing and wearable sensors in the context of healthcare (mHealth). As such, the postdoc would join an inter-disciplinary team working on multiple funded projects, primarily Amulet with some involvement in the Trustworthy Health & Wellness (THaW) project. The team collaborates with colleagues in the engineering and medical schools, and with several other universities.

Continue reading

THaW Testifies in Annapolis

THaW researchers testified in a Maryland House of Delegates hearing on security the Maryland Healthcare Exchange. We are working with Maryland Delegate Kathy Szeliga to help draft  bill, House Bill 1306, to apply security measures to the Maryland Healthcare Exchange’s website. Hopkins Senior Security Engineer, Joe Carrigan’s testimony is online and can be viewed here (The discussion on HB 1306 starts at 1:30:18).

Hospitals Must Develop IT Security Plans To Avoid Target’s Fate

In a recent study examining data from 243 hospitals, THaW researcher Eric Johnson found that while compliance with state and federal IT security mandates like HIPAA helps the worst hospitals protect patient information better, organizations that maintain and regularly update a security plan get far more from their security investments. Eric defines these organizations as “operationally mature.” These strategic plans — along with periodic reviews — enable organizations to learn of potential new risks and evaluate their own security posture. As a consequence, organizations’ security resources are better targeted to address their specific needs and the environments in which they operate. Eric’s results show that the impact of security investments varies depending on the operational maturity of the organization.

Read more about this study and its results in Eric’s blog. The study was funded by an earlier NSF grant on Trustworthy Information Systems for Healthcare.

THaW kick-off meeting

THaW participants (and a few invited guests) at Johns Hopkins University, December 2013

The THaW research group held its first all-hands meeting at the Johns Hopkins University on December 11, 2013. About thirty researchers from five universities and affiliated medical centers were in attendance, along with several experts from the field of healthcare information technology. It was a great opportunity for the team to build rapport and begin collaborative projects.  Many thanks to Avi Rubin and Wendy Phillips and their team for hosting us.

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