Digital 'magic wand' to improve health-care, cybersecurity

Last Updated 21 February 2016, 11:46 IST

Scientists have developed a digital 'magic wand' that uses radio strength as a communication channel to improve home health-care and prevent hackers from stealing users' personal data.

Researchers from Dartmouth College in US developed 'Wanda,' a small hardware device that has two antennas separated by one-half wavelength.

This 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.

Wireless and mobile health technologies have great potential to improve quality and access to care, reduce costs and improve health, researchers said.

"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 are not designed or configured with security and privacy in mind," said David Kotz from Dartmouth University.

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, researchers said.

"People love this new approach to connecting devices to Wi-Fi. We anticipate our 'Wanda' technology being useful in a wide variety of applications, not just health-care, and for a wide range of device management tasks, not just Wi-Fi network configuration," said Kotz.

(Published 21 February 2016, 11:27 IST)

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