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.
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.
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]
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Kevin Fu and Darren Lacey at the center of a panel session at the mHealth Summit.
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.
We are pleased to announce that NSF CNS has awarded three years of funding for the Computational Jewelry for Mobile Healthproject, 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.
Welcome to the Trustworthy Health and Wellness (THaW) project. Our mission is to enable the promise of health and wellness technology by innovating mobile- and cloud-computing systems that respect the privacy of individuals and the trustworthiness of medical information.
With this mission in mind, our team is launching a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary research agenda to address many of the fundamental technical problems that arise in securing healthcare infrastructure that, given recent trends, will increasingly be delivered using mobile devices and cloud-based services. The pervasive reach and (often) health-critical nature of these new technologies demand scientific solutions that provide trustworthy cybersystems for health and wellness. Our five-year research agenda is driven by the needs of the changing health & wellness ecosystem and addresses fundamental scientific problems that arise in other domains in transition to an infrastructure built on mobile devices and cloud services, such as transportation, m-commerce and education.
Specifically, our research agenda will contribute to authenticating mobile users in a continuous and unobtrusive way, segmenting access to medical records from mobile devices to limit information exposure, allowing individuals a usable way to control the information collected about them, handling genomic data in the cloud while enabling patient control over information, managing security on remote health devices while reducing the burden on the user, verifying medical directives issued to remote devices, detecting malware through power analysis, providing provenance information to those who use health data, and auditing behavior of this complex ecosystem of devices and systems.
Our research will have long-term impact by enabling the creation of health & wellness systems that can be trusted by individual citizens to protect their privacy and can be trusted by health professionals to ensure data integrity and security. Our healthcare partners will aid us to evaluate and demonstrate the value of our security solutions. We will also impact the next generation of scientists by creating new course modules, sponsoring summer programs for underrepresented minorities and women to broaden undergraduate and K-12 participation in computing; and creating an exchange program for our postdocs and research students to rotate among sites to broaden perspectives and receive mentoring on trustworthy computing.