New THaW Dissertation: ‘Information Provenance for Mobile Health Data’

We are proud to announce a THaW team members’ successful dissertation. Dr. Taylor Hardin’s dissertation focuses on an end-to-end solution for providing information provenance for mHealth data, which begins by securing mHealth data at its source: the mHealth device. 

The dissertation describes a memory-isolation method that combines compiler-inserted code and Memory Protection Unit (MPU) hardware to protect application code and data on ultra-low-power micro-controllers. The security of mHealth data outside of the source (e.g., data that has been uploaded to smartphone or remote-server) is then addressed with Amanuensis, a health-data system, which uses Blockchain and Trusted Execution Environment (TEE) technologies to provide confidential, yet verifiable, data storage and computation for mHealth data. The use of blockchain and TEEs introduce identity privacy and data freshness issues, which are explored. A privacy-preserving solution for blockchain transactions, and a freshness solution for data access-control lists retrieved from the blockchain are presented.

To learn more, check out Dr. Taylor Hardin’s dissertation below. 

Hardin, Taylor A., “Information Provenance for Mobile Health Data” (2022). Dartmouth College Ph.D Dissertations. 79.

VibeRing: An out-of-band channel for sharing secret keys

Health-oriented smart devices, such as a blood-glucose monitor, collect meaningful data when they are in use and in physical contact with their user. The smart device’s (“smartThing’s”) wireless connectivity allows it to transfer that data to its user’s trusted device, for example a smartphone. However, an adversary could impersonate the user and bootstrap a communication channel with the smartThing while the smartThing is being used by an oblivious legitimate user. 

To address this problem, in this paper, we investigate the use of vibration, generated by a smartRing, as an out-of-band communication channel to unobtrusively share a secret with a smartThing. This exchanged secret can be used to bootstrap a secure wireless channel over which the smartphone (or another trusted device) and the smartThing can communicate. We present the design, implementation, and evaluation of this system, which we call VibeRing. We describe the hardware and software details of the smartThing and smartRing. Through a user study we demonstrate that it is possible to share a secret with various objects quickly, accurately and securely as compared to several existing techniques.

Sougata Sen and David Kotz. VibeRing: Using vibrations from a smart ring as an out-of-band channel for sharing secret keys. Journal of Pervasive and Mobile Computing, volume 78, article 101505, 16 pages. Elsevier, December 2021. doi:10.1016/j.pmcj.2021.101505. ©Copyright Elsevier. Revision of sen:vibering.

New THaW Patent

The THaW team is pleased to announce one new patent derived from THaW research. For the complete list of patents, visit our Tech Transfer page.

Abstract: Apparatuses that provide for secure wireless communications between wireless devices under cover of one or more jamming signals. Each such apparatus includes at least one data antenna and at least one jamming antenna. During secure-communications operations, the apparatus transmits a data signal containing desired data via the at least one data antenna while also at least partially simultaneously transmitting a jamming signal via the at least one jamming antenna. When a target antenna of a target device is in close proximity to the data antenna and is closer to the data antenna than to the jamming antenna, the target device can successfully receive the desired data contained in the data signal because the data signal is sufficiently stronger than the jamming signal within a finite secure-communications envelope due to the Inverse Square Law of signal propagation. Various related methods and machine-executable instructions are also disclosed.

Image describes the steps to ensure secure wireless data transfer between devices.

Timothy J. Pierson, Ronald Peterson, and David Kotz. Apparatuses, Methods, and Software For Secure Short-Range Wireless Communication. U.S. Patent 11,153,026, October 19, 2021. Download from

See also: Timothy J. Pierson, Travis Peters, Ronald Peterson, and David Kotz. CloseTalker: secure, short-range ad hoc wireless communication. Proceedings of the ACM International Conference on Mobile Systems, Applications, and Services (MobiSys), pages 340–352. ACM, June 2019. doi:10.1145/3307334.3326100. [Details]

THaW’s Eric Johnson on recent health system cyberattacks

Eric Johnson
Eric Johnson, PhD and dean of Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management

Cyberattacks targeting healthcare systems have been growing in prevalence and are wreaking more havoc with the healthcare industry’s increased dependence on electronic systems. Cyberattacks such as denial-of-service attacks, can have immediate impact on patient care by leaving medical staff without important patient records. The impacts don’t end there. With healthcare systems increasing their cybersecurity protocols in the aftermath of a cyberattack, patient information can be harder to access for those who should be accessing that information. Johnson’s research with co-author S.J. Choi, PhD, shows that at hospitals where security protocols slowed computer access by just a minute or so, people who came in with a heart attack were more likely to die. “When I talk to doctors about security, a lot of times they’re very negative,” Johnson said. “So they’re pretty far behind, and at this point, incredibly vulnerable.” It’s certainly not a stretch, Johnson says, to say that delays from a ransomware attack are likely to have more serious effects.

To read more about the recent cyberattacks on healthcare systems and coverage of THaW research on those topics, check out the THaW press page.

New THaW Paper on Recurring Device Verification

An IoT device user with a blood-pressure monitoring device should have the assurance that the device operates how a blood-pressure monitor should operate. If the monitor is connected to a measurement app that collects, stores, and reports data, but interacts in a way that is inconsistent with typical interactions for this type of device, there may be cause for concern. The reality of ubiquitous connectivity and frequent mobility gives rise to a myriad of opportunities for devices to be compromised. Thus, we argue that one-time, single-factor, device-to-device authentication (i.e., an initial pairing) is not enough, and that there must exist some mechanism to frequently (re-)verify the authenticity of devices and their connections.

In this paper we propose a device-to-device recurring authentication scheme – Verification of Interaction Authenticity (VIA) – that is based on evaluating characteristics of the communications (interactions) between devices. We adapt techniques from wireless traffic analysis and intrusion detection systems to develop behavioral models that capture typical, authentic device interactions (behavior); these models enable recurring verification of device behavior. 

To read more, check out the paper here.

Travis Peters, Timothy J. Pierson, Sougata Sen, José Camacho, and David Kotz. Recurring Verification of Interaction Authenticity Within Bluetooth Networks. Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Security and Privacy in Wireless and Mobile Networks (WiSec 2021), pages 192–203. ACM, June 2021. doi:10.1145/3448300.3468287. ©

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

A ‘building code’ for building secure code in medical devices

Carl Landwehr portrait

Carl Landwehr

Last month, a broad mix of experts convened by THaW researcher Carl Landwehr convened in New Orleans to begin drafting a “building code” for medical-device software.  They’ve just released their report, and there is already talk about taking some of these ideas into the various standards bodies. Check out their report and feel free to leave comments on their site.  — dave

THaW at the mHealth Privacy & Security Symposium

Perhaps the largest annual event related to mHealth is the mHealth Summit, held near Washington DC.  Today, the summit kicked off with a Privacy & Security Symposium, including a panel on Medical Device Security anchored by both Kevin Fu and Darren Lacey from the THaW team.  Kevin, Darren and the other panelists spoke about some of the security concerns that medical devices pose for patients, clinicians, and hospitals.  The audience brought together a broad mix of medical practitioners, device and software vendors, security professionals, and computer scientists.

photo of the panelists

Kevin Fu and Darren Lacey at the center of a panel session at the mHealth Summit.

THaW leads panel at Grace Hopper Conference

Two THaW researchers led a panel on designing mobile and wearable devices for health and wellness at the Grace Hopper Conference in Phoenix, Arizona on October 10th, 2014. The panel was co-hosted by Dr. Klara Nahrstedt (THaW Co-PI and Professor of Computer Science at UIUC), and Aarathi Prasad (Ph.D. Candidate at Dartmouth College). Panelists included Ruzena Bajcsy (Professor of EECS at UC Berkeley), Jung Ook Hong (research scientist at Fitbit), and Janet Campbell (product lead at Epic). The panel discussed issues related to usability, security, and privacy that mobile and wearable health and wellness application developers should be aware of. Jung discussed the effect that data presentation has on user’s behavior; for example, users are more likely to take 10,000 steps than 8,000 steps because they receive an encouraging message to take a few more steps to cross the daily 10,000 step-count goal. Ruzena talked about the challenges faced by elderly users of mHealth technologies, such as small fonts and complicated buttons on a device. Klara presented the security and privacy issues that arise when people use mobile and wearable health and wellness devices and discussed the different THaW projects briefly. Finally, Janet talked about the issues of sending data to an EHR, such as identifying the patient whose data is in the EHR.

photo of 5 panelists

Jung Ook Hong, Klara Nahrstedt, Ruzena Bajcsy, Janet Campbell, Aarathi Prasad


Amulet project launched

We are pleased to announce that NSF CNS has awarded three years of funding for the Computational Jewelry for Mobile Health project, which complements many of the projects in the Trustworthy Health and Wellness program and involves several of the same Dartmouth researchers.

The project’s vision is that computational jewelry, in a form like a bracelet or pendant, will provide the properties essential for successful body-area mHealth networks. These devices coordinate the activity of the body-area network and provide a discreet means for communicating with their wearer. Such devices complement the capabilities of a smartphone, bridging the gap between the type of pervasive computing possible with a mobile phone and that enabled by wearable computing.

The interdisciplinary team of investigators from Dartmouth and Clemson is designing and developing ‘Amulet’, an electronic bracelet and a software framework that enables developers to create (and users to easily use) safe, secure, and efficient mHealth applications that fit seamlessly into everyday life. The research is determining the degree to which computational jewelry offers advantages in availability, reliability, security, privacy, and usability, and developing techniques that provide these properties in spite of the severely-constrained power resources of wearable jewelry.

Learn more about the Amulet project at