Vibration-Based Secure Side Channel for Medical Devices

Web Published:

Princeton Docket # 15-3123


Advances in the design of implantable and wearable medical devices (IWMDs) have enabled fundamentally new options for monitoring, diagnosing, and treating a wide range of medical conditions. IWMDs have become increasingly sophisticated over the years and are now commonly equipped with advanced features, such as wireless connectivity. In addition to enabling continuous ambulatory monitoring, wireless connectivity in IWMDs also allows healthcare professionals to remotely monitor a patient's health and device status without requiring the patient to visit their office.


Although wireless connectivity in IWMDs enables convenient and timely access to medical data, it can also be a security loophole that allows adversaries to obtain sensitive medical data from IWMDs or even take control of them. Recent research has exposed several security vulnerabilities in wireless-enabled IWMDs.  IWMDs should be protected from unauthorized access, and at the same time, healthcare professionals' access to them should not be hindered or delayed when the patient requires immediate medical assistance. Traditional security mechanisms do not address this tension between resistance to adversaries and the need for easy access in an emergency situation.


There are inherent challenges in securing the wireless channel between IWMDs and external devices (EDs).  Researchers in the Departments of Electrical Engineering at Princeton and Purdue Universities have invented a vibration-based secure side channel to safeguard the wireless communication between IWMDs and EDs, particularly for the purpose of radio frequency (RF) module wakeup and cryptographic key exchange. We propose a vibration-based secure side channel between an ED (medical programmer or smartphone) and an IWMD. Vibration is an intrinsically short-range, user-perceptible channel that is suitable for realizing physically secure communication at low energy and size/weight overheads. We propose a novel vibration-based wakeup that is resistant to battery drain attacks, and a key exchange scheme for the cryptographic protection of the wireless channel.



•       Improve security of IWMDs

•       Intrinsically secure  device

•       Acoustic masking countermeasure to thwart acoustic eavesdropping attacks

•       Enable secure access to sensitive medical data

•       Protect from unauthorized access to device



•       Securely wake up RF module and exchange cryptographic key

•       Very close proximity for communication; highly user-perceptible

•       Implemented with minimal energy and area overheads

•       Components for ED already present in most modern mobile devices

•       Little noise or interference in vibration channel

•       Resistant to battery drain attacks


Key Words


Wireless communication, implantable and wearable medical devices, external devices, cryptographic protection, vibration sensor


Related Publications


Kim, Y., Lee, W.S., Raghunathan, V., Jha, N.K., and Raghunathan, A.  Vibration-based secure side channel for medical devices.  IEEE/ACM Design Automation Conference,  2015.




Younghyun Kim, Woo Suk Lee, Vijay Raghunathan, Anand Raghunathan, and Niraj K. Jha


Princeton Faculty inventor


Niraj K. Jha, Professor of Electrical Engineering


Professor Niraj K. Jha completed his doctoral studies in Electrical Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1985.  He holds a M.S. in Electrical Engineering from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and a B.Tech. in Electronics and Electrical Communication Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology.  He joined Princeton University in 1987, achieving the rank of Professor in 1998. 


Prof. Jha is a fellow of IEEE and the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and has served  as the Editor-in-Chief of IEEE Transactions on VLSI Systems, and as an Associate Editor of several journals.  He has been the recipient of the AT&T Foundation Award, NEC Preceptorship Award for Research Excellence, the NCR Award for Teaching Excellence, and the Princeton University Graduate Mentoring Award.  He has co-authored four books, in addition to authoring or co-authoring 15 book chapters and more than 410 technical papers.  His papers have been selected for “The Best of ICCAD: A collection of the best IEEE International Conference on Computer-Aided Design papers of the past 20 years,” by IEEE Micro Magazine as top picks from the 2005 and 2007 Computer Architecture conferences, and two were included among the most influential papers of the last 10 years at the IEEE Design Automation and Test in Europe Conference.  He holds 16 U.S. patents.


The research interests of the Jha lab include power- and temperature-aware chip multiprocessor (CMP) and multiprocessor system-on-chip (MPSoC) design, design algorithms and tools for FinFETs, three-dimensional integrated circuit (3D IC) design, embedded system analysis and design, field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), digital system testing, computer security, quantum circuit design, and energy-efficient buildings.



Intellectual Property Status

Patent applications are pending.  Princeton is seeking industrial collaborators for further development and commercialization of this technology.



Laurie Tzodikov

Princeton University Office of Technology Licensing • (609) 258-7256•



Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
Tony Williams
Associate Director
Princeton University
Younghyun Kim
Woo Suk Lee
Vijay Raghunathan
Niraj Jha
Anand Raghunathan