Researchers have developed a digital “magic wand” hardware device to improve home healthcare and to prevent hackers from stealing your personal data. Wireless and mobile health technologies have great potential to improve quality and access to care, reduce costs and improve health, said one of the researchers David Kotz, professor of computer science at Dartmouth College in the US.
“But these new technologies, whether in the form of software for smartphones or specialised devices to be worn, carried or applied as needed, also pose risks if they’re not designed or configured with security and privacy in mind,” Kotz noted.
One of the main challenges is that most people do not know how to set up and maintain a secure network in their home, which can lead to compromised or stolen data or potentially allow hackers access to critical devices such as heart rate monitors or dialysis machines.
In the new Dartmouth-based project, the researches developed “Wanda”, a small hardware device that has two antennas separated by one-half wavelength and uses radio strength as a communication channel.
The clever solution makes it easy for people to add a new device to their home (or clinic) Wi-Fi network: they simply pull the wand from a USB port on the Wi-Fi access point, carry it close to the new device and point it at the device.
Within a few seconds, the wand securely beams the secret Wi-Fi network information to the device.
The same method can be used to transfer any information from the wand to the new device without anyone nearby capturing the secrets or tampering with the information.
“People love this new approach to connecting devices to Wi-Fi,” Tim Pierson from Dartmouth College said.
“We anticipate our `Wanda’ technology being useful in a wide variety of applications, not just healthcare, and for a wide range of device management tasks, not just Wi-Fi network configuration,” Kotz said.
The findings will be presented at the IEEE International Conference on Computer Communications in San Francisco in April.