Bioimpedance wrist bracelet could beef up security for wireless medical devices

All year, the chatter only increased about how wireless medical devices are vulnerable to hacking. Now we're starting to more academic solutions designed to counter this. Case in point: A professor at Dartmouth College developed a wristwatch-like device that measures bioimpedance--a person's response to an externally applied electoral current--and could be used as a sort of security I.D. for medical monitoring devices. Once a person's I.D. is confirmed this way, the primary medical device could begin transmitting vital signs or other data as intended.

MIT's Technology Review magazine writes about the research in an interesting piece. According to the story, the prototype comes from computer scientist Cory Cornelius and colleagues. The team recently showed it off at the Usenix Advanced Computing System Association workshop in Bellevue, WA.

As the article explains, bioimpedance would vary from each person, depending on the individual's particular density of bone, blood vessels and flesh. Electrodes in a wristwatch-type device would gather the necessary data. The idea is that this could serve as a unique identifier that works in tandem with medical devices, such as blood-pressure cuffs or other wireless equipment that would gather vital signs. Once a person's identify is confirmed, the primary medical device would then send the data wirelessly to the patient's physician or electronic medical record, the story explains.

"The idea of using bioimpedance as a biometric is clever," University of Massachusetts Amherst computer scientist Kevin Fu told Technology Review.

The issue of stopping potential hacking of wireless devices (including insulin pumps and defibrillators) has gained the attention of a board that advises the U.S. government on security issues, and wants the FDA or some other agency to assess hacking security for devices that rely on software. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security also recently issued a device hacking warning this past spring. MIT and UMass have also explored ways to make wireless medical devices less vulnerable to hacking.

- read the Technology Review story