Feeds

Microsoft wants pacemaker password tattoos

The keys to my heart are on my foot

Using blade systems to cut costs and sharpen efficiencies

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. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Secure microkernel that uses maths to be 'bug free' goes open source
Hacker-repelling, drone-protecting code will soon be yours to tweak as you see fit
How long is too long to wait for a security fix?
Synology finally patches OpenSSL bugs in Trevor's NAS
Roll out the welcome mat to hackers and crackers
Security chap pens guide to bug bounty programs that won't fail like Yahoo!'s
Israel's Iron Dome missile tech stolen by Chinese hackers
Corporate raiders Comment Crew fingered for attacks
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Researcher sat on critical IE bugs for THREE YEARS
VUPEN waited for Pwn2Own cash while IE's sandbox leaked
Four fake Google haxbots hit YOUR WEBSITE every day
Goog the perfect ruse to slip into SEO orfice
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.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.