Feeds

Microsoft wants pacemaker password tattoos

The keys to my heart are on my foot

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

A Microsoft researcher has suggested tattooing passwords on patients with pacemakers and other implanted medical devices to ensure the remotely-controlled gadgets can be accessed during emergencies.

The proposal, by Stuart Schechter of Microsoft Research, is the latest to grapple with the security of implanted medical devices equipped with radio transmitters they can be controlled without the need for surgery. Besides pacemakers, other types of potentially vulnerable devices include insulin pumps and cardiac defibrillators.

In 2008, researchers demonstrated that heart monitors were susceptible to wireless hacks that caused pacemakers to shut off or leak personal information. But equally devastating are scenarios in which physicians are unable to provide emergency care because they don't have the access codes needed to control the devices.

In a paper published last week, Schechter proposed that access to such devices be controlled with encryption similar to what's used on wi-fi networks. Access keys would then be tattooed on patients using ink that's invisible under most conditions.

"We propose that a user-selected human-readable key be encoded directly onto patients using ultraviolet-ink micropigmentation, adjacent to the point of implantation," he wrote. "To increase reliability the encoding could be augmented to include an error correcting code and/or be replicated in full on the base of the patient's leftmost foot - at the arch."

Equipment used to remotely communicate with the implanted devices would be equipped with an ultraviolet light and a keypad or touchscreen for transmitting the code.

Schechter said patients can't be counted on to provide the code because they may forget it or lose consciousness during an emergency. Bracelets, meanwhile, may reveal the patient's condition to strangers or potential attackers. Passwords transmitted by RFID, or radio frequency identification, technology, are susceptible to snooping, he said.

The proposal comes five months after boffins from Switzerland suggested using ultrasound waves as a way to prevent attacks on radio-controlled pacemakers.

A PDF of Schechter's paper is here. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
14 antivirus apps found to have security problems
Vendors just don't care, says researcher, after finding basic boo-boos in security software
'Things' on the Internet-of-things have 25 vulnerabilities apiece
Leaking sprinklers, overheated thermostats and picked locks all online
iWallet: No BONKING PLEASE, we're Apple
BLE-ding iPhones, not NFC bonkers, will drive trend - marketeers
Only '3% of web servers in top corps' fully fixed after Heartbleed snafu
Just slapping a patched OpenSSL on a machine ain't going to cut it, we're told
Multipath TCP speeds up the internet so much that security breaks
Black Hat research says proposed protocol will bork network probes, flummox firewalls
How long is too long to wait for a security fix?
Synology finally patches OpenSSL bugs in Trevor's NAS
Israel's Iron Dome missile tech stolen by Chinese hackers
Corporate raiders Comment Crew fingered for attacks
Tor attack nodes RIPPED MASKS off users for 6 MONTHS
Traffic confirmation attack bared users' privates - but to whom?
Roll out the welcome mat to hackers and crackers
Security chap pens guide to bug bounty programs that won't fail like Yahoo!'s
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.