Researchers Create Prototype Firewall To Protect Medical Devices

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Researchers from Princeton and Purdue universities have developed a prototype firewall, called MedMon, that could prevent hackers from manipulating wireless medical devices, United Press International reports (United Press International, 4/12).

About Medical Device Hacking

Anand Raghunathan -- a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Purdue University and a developer of MedMon -- said researchers decided to develop the prototype firewall because of the "ease with which [they] were able to break into wireless medical systems" (Pearson, CMIO, 4/16).

Niraj Jha -- a Princeton University researcher and a developer of MedMon -- said that the risk of medical device hacking might be low but that security measures are needed before hacks simulated by researchers are replicated on real devices.

According to the researchers, devices that could be at risk of hacking include:

  • Brain implants under development to control epilepsy;
  • Continuous glucose monitoring systems;
  • Insulin delivery systems;
  • Pacemakers; and
  • "Smart prosthetics" that use electronic chips (United Press International, 4/12).

How the Prototype Works

MedMon works by monitoring communications sent and received by any implantable or wearable medical device that has wireless transmitters and receivers.

If the prototype firewall detects unusual activity, it can alert the user or block malicious code from reaching the device by sending out signals that interfere with the hacker's technology.

According to Raghunathan, the prototype is an additional device that could be worn as a necklace or integrated into a cell phone. It would not require any changes to a user's existing implantable device, he said.

Researchers said they have filed a provisional patent application for MedMon, which currently is a proof-of-concept device that would need to be miniaturized (CMIO, 4/16).

Neil Henry
A firewall that was positioned close enough to control access would probably be worn on the body. Small is key. What other functions would it have? (early warning alarm processor?)

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