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Protecting Medical Implants From Attack

MIT News (06/13/11) Larry Hardesty

Although millions of people worldwide have implantable medical devices, recent research has shown that these devices are vulnerable to attack, such as an attacker instructing a device to deliver lethal doses of medicine or electricity.  Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst have developed a system to prevent such attacks.  The system involves the use of a second transmitter to block unauthorized signals in an implant’s operating frequency, which prevents everyone but authorized users from communicating with it.  The jamming transmitter would be small enough to wear as a necklace or a watch.  The researchers experimented with implantable defibrillators taken secondhand from Boston-area hospitals and programmable off-the-shelf transmitters to simulate the shield.  They developed a technique that enables the shield to send and receive signals in the same frequency band at the same time.  “I think that’s what people liked about it, that you could do it with existing devices, and that you did not have a lot of the overhead that it would take to come up with an entirely new thing,” says University of California, San Diego professor Stefan Savage.


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