Researchers create firewall for wireless medical devices

A firewall prototype to prevent hackers from interfering with wireless medical devices has been created by researchers at Purdue and Princeton Universities. The device could protect devices such as pacemakers, insulin-delivery systems and neuroprostheses, according to a press release from Purdue.

According to Anand Raghunathan, PhD, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Purdue, the research was motivated by how easily he and his colleagues were able to hack into wireless medical systems. Many implantable devices have wireless transmitters and receivers, which enable health care providers to perform diagnostics and download data. However, the wireless connection also makes the devices vulnerable to potential hackers that could create malfunctions or alter medicinal dosages.

Along with Niraj K. Jha, PhD, a professor of electrical engineering at Princeton, and two Princeton graduate students, the group developed the MedMon, which acts as a firewall to prevent hackers from hijacking medical devices. The prototype was tested and proved successful in protecting an insulin pump from hacking. It monitors communications going into and coming out of any implantable or wearable medical device using multi-layered anomaly detection to identify potentially malicious transactions. The device raises an alarm to the user or blocks transactions when suspicious activity is detected using electronic jamming similar to technology used in military systems.

The prototype is proof-of-concept and would need to be miniaturized to be able to wear, such as on a necklace or integrated into a cell phone. A provisional patent application has been filed for the MedMon.

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