Heart-to-Heart (H2H): Authentication for Implanted Medical Devices - Embedded.com

Heart-to-Heart (H2H): Authentication for Implanted Medical Devices


We present Heart-to-Heart (H2H), a system to authenticate external medical device controllers and programmers to Implantable Medical Devices (IMDs). IMDs, which include pacemakers and cardiac defibrillators, are therapeutic medical devices partially or wholly embedded in the human body.

They often have built-in radio communication to facilitate non-invasive reprogramming and data readout. Many IMDs, though, lack well designed authentication protocols, exposing patients to over-the-air attack and physical harm.

H2H makes use of ECG (heartbeat data) as an authentication mechanism, ensuring access only by a medical instrument in physical contact with an IMD-bearing patient.

Based on statistical analysis of real-world data, we propose and analyze new techniques for extracting time-varying randomness from ECG signals for use in H2H.

We introduce a novel cryptographic device pairing protocol that uses this randomness to protect against attacks by active adversaries, while meeting the practical challenges of lightweight implementation and noise tolerance in ECG readings.

Finally, we describe an end-to-end implementation in an ARM-Cortex M-3 microcontroller that demonstrates the practicality of H2H in current IMD hardware.

Previous schemes have had goals much like those of H2H, but with serious limitations making them unfit for deployment—such as naïvely designed cryptographic pairing protocols (some of them recently broken). In addition to its novel analysis and use of ECG entropy, H2H is the first physiologically-based IMD device pairing protocol with a rigorous adversarial model and protocol analysis.

To read this external content in full, download the paper from the author archives at Aceslab.org

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