Your heartbeat is a password: Medical implants could get new security feature 

A nurse stands next to a heart monitor.
A nurse stands next to a heart monitor. Fabrizio Bensch

The unique signature of a person's beating heart could be used to secure his or her implanted medical devices against hack attacks. A security feature developed by researchers at Rice University and security firm RSA would listen to the patient's heartbeat, and will only permit a technician or doctor to tweak the medical device — for instance, an insulin pump or defibrillator — if the beats match.

The thought of pacemaker hacking make you palpitate a bit? It's true that implanted devices which transmit data wirelessly have grown wonderfully small and smart. But time and again, researchers have demonstrated that the devices can be hacked to scramble programming, alter performance and access information. 

The new setup could give doctors and paramedics easy and quick access to the devices, while keeping them safe from hack attacks, David Talbot at Technology Review reports.

When doctors or paramedics need to access to an implanted device in their patient, they read the patient's heartbeat with a second device in real time. If that signal matches the encrypted signal transmitted by the implanted device, the device is unlocked. 

Preparing for a future that melds man and machine, researchers have proposed security tools that use heartbeats as passcodes before. For example, researchers in Taiwan described securing a hard drive using ECG information from a person's beating heart, which could decrypt with a person's touch. And just last week, a company called Bionym announced a new wristband that could lock and unlock your iPad or other regular devices after reading your heartbeat. Other biological identifiers, like EEG readings from the brain have also been proposed as security features

Via: Technology Review

Nidhi Subbaraman writes about technology and science. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.