Wireless communication has become an intrinsic part of modern implantable medical devices (IMDs). Recent work, however, has demonstrated that wireless connectivity can be exploited to compromise the confidentiality of IMDs' transmitted data or to send unauthorized commands to IMDs. The key challenge in addressing these attacks stems from the difficulty of modifying or replacing already-implanted IMD.

This research explores the feasibility of protecting an implantable device from such attacks without modifying the device itself. It develops a solution that delegates the security of an IMD to a personal base station called the shield. The shield introduces a novel radio design that allows it to jam the IMD's messages, preventing others from decoding them while being able to decode them itself. It can also jam unauthorized commands --even those that try to alter the shield's own transmissions.

The research delivers a novel full-duplex radio design that, in contrast to past work, has no requirements on antenna separation and hence can be built into a wearable device. It also delivers the first non-invasive security mechanism for securing IMDs? communications without modifying them. Finally, it increases the resilience of wireless medical devices to jamming attacks, bad channel conditions, and interference.

By enabling medical devices to leverage wireless communication without incurring security risks, the research can improve the quality of life for patients and reduce the cost of healthcare systems. The broader impact plan also includes academic publications, integration in educational programs, and working with the medical device industry.

Project Report

This project has focused on developing wireless technologies that can improve the security and performance of medical devices. The research has studied the security of wireless communication in modern medical implants. It demonstrated that implants like cardiac defibrillators and pacemakers are susceptible to attacks on their communication channels, including attacks that can change the patient’s treatment or make the implant send electric shocks to the heart. The research developed the first solution that can protect medical implants from such attacks without requiring any modification to the implanted devices. The research has also studied the security of RFIDs which are used for access control and to track medical devices in multiple hospitals. It demonstrated that current RFIDs are insecure, and developed new methods that protect the security of RFIDs, while taking into account their power and computation constraints. In particular, the research developed the first technology that can protect RFIDs from eavesdropping attacks mounted by an adversary with a very large number of MIMO antennas. Finally, we have developed new wireless systems that can track human motion without requiring any wearable devices. These solutions are suitable for elderly monitoring and fall detection. These solutions are the first to deliver highly accurate tracking capabilities using purely RF reflections off the human body.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Computer and Network Systems (CNS)
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Thyagarajan Nandagopal
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Massachusetts Institute of Technology
United States
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