Niraj Jha: Securing implantable medical devices against attack

Wednesday, Sep 21, 2016

Invention Securing implantable medical devices against attack

Inventor Niraj Jha, professor of electrical engineering and associate director for education, Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment.

What it does In an increasingly connected world, a new technology developed by Niraj Jha and his colleagues can provide security for pacemakers, insulin pumps and other medical devices that are at risk of being hacked.

Implantable and wearable medical devices that communicate over wireless networks are vulnerable to attacks that can either block communications altogether, or send instructions to the device to cause harm, such as providing an overdose of insulin or triggering an arrhythmia. Another risk is from hackers who  eavesdrop on the communications to obtain private medical information. Encryption, the typical security solution, uses significant amounts of power, which keeps it from being added to these devices.

To enhance medical-device security — without requiring the devices to be removed from the body and upgraded — Jha and his colleagues developed a technology called MedMon that monitors communications and, if it detects unusual activity, interrupts the transfer of information.

MedMon is being miniaturized so that it can be worn on a belt or carried in a pocket. More recently, Jha and colleagues at Purdue University developed a secure technology called SecureVibe that can be incorporated into new medical devices. The new technology consists of the addition of a secure channel of communication that allows encrypted messages to be periodically sent between the device and an external station with high energy efficiency.

MedMon: Meng Zhang, who earned his Ph.D. in electrical engineering in 2013 and is now a member of the technical staff at WorldQuant, and Anand Raghunathan, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Purdue University.

SecureVibe: Younghyun Kim, Woo Suk Lee, Vijay Raghunathan and Anand Raghunathan, all at Purdue University.

Development status Patent protection is pending. Princeton is seeking outside interest for further development of this technology.

Funding source National Science Foundation