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Scientists Work to Keep Hackers Out of Implanted Medical Devices

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bar-code tattoo

A bar-code tattoo could give a patient's pacemaker password to medical professionals in the event of an emergency.

Credit: Tamara Denning / University of Washington

Researchers are developing ways to prevent hackers from accessing and remotely controlling medical devices that emit wireless signals. For example, Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Nathanael Paul is designing a more secure insulin pump that cuts some of the wireless connections between parts of the system. Other researchers are looking for security solutions for pacemakers and cardiac defibrillators.

Some researchers have suggested protecting medical devices with passwords, but doctors and nurses would have to be able to control the devices in the case of an emergency. "If you have a patient that's unconscious on the ground, you really don't want the medical staff to have to figure out what security system they're using," said University of Washington's Tamara Denning at the recent CHI 2010 conference. The passwords could be tattooed in the form of a barcode on the patient's skin, either with visible ink or ink that can only be seen under ultraviolet light, Denning said.

Security issues for medical devices will increase when these devices are connected to phones, the Internet, and other computers, notes University of Massachusetts at Amherst professor Kevin Fu.

From CNN
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