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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—even commands that cause the device to deliver an electric shock to the patient. The key challenge in addressing these attacks stems from the difficulty of modifying or replacing already-implanted IMDs. Thus, in this project, we explore the feasibility of protecting an implantable device from such attacks without modifying the device itself. We present a physicallayer solution that delegates the security of an IMD to a personal base station called the shield. The shield uses a novel radio design that can act as a jammer-cum-receiver. This design allows it to jam the IMD’s messages, preventing others from decoding them while being able to decode them itself. It also allows the shield to jam unauthorized commands—even those that try to alter the shield’s own transmissions. We implement our design in a software radio and evaluate it with commercial IMDs. We find that it effectively provides confidentiality for private data and protects the IMD from unauthorized commands.


They Can hear Your Heartbeats: Non-Invasive Security for Implantable Medical Devices
Shyamnath Gollakota, Haitham Hassanieh, Ben Ransford, Dina Katabi, and Keving Fu
ACM SIGCOMM, 2011 Best Paper Award PDF


Shyamnath Gollakota
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Haitham Al Hassanieh
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Ben Ransford
University of Massachusetts Amherst

Dina Katabi
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Kevin Fu
University of Massachusetts Amherst

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