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Implantable devices hold great potential for pervasive healthcare, enabling the identification, monitoring, and treatment of patients regardless of their location. To realize this goal, these devices must be able to communicate wirelessly with external devices. However, wireless communication presents many vulnerabilities: an attacker can eavesdrop on transmitted information, use implanted devices to track patients, or spoof an implanted device. An attacker even has the potential to cause direct physical harm to a patient, either by forcibly removing an implanted device from the patient or by maliciously sending commands that affect the operation of an implanted device. Addressing these security threats is crucial for implantable devices due to their permanent nature, but it is difficult because of the severe resource constraints facing such devices. This article details the threats that face wireless implantable devices, surveys the work addressing these threats, and identifies open issues for future research.
Date of Publication: July 2009