Darthmouth Unveils Magic Wand for Secure Data Transmission

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Hanover, New Hampshire – Researchers at Dartmouth’s Department of Computer Science has unveiled “Wanda,” a prototype “magic wand” that securely transmits information to a medical device.

According to the paper authored by Timothy J. Pierson, Xiaohui Liang, Ronald Peterson, and David Kotz, Wanda is designed configure a target device to connect to a local Wi-Fi network and to other devices on the network. Wanda can also configure the target device to send data to a particular location in the cloud.

The paper states that Wanda consists of a wand that attaches via USB to a Wi-Fi access point and a protocol installed in the target device. To securely transmit network or other information, the user simply detaches the wand from the Wi-Fi access point and touches the wand to the target device. In lab testing, researchers transmitted network information to a blood pressure monitor by touching the wand to the monitor. Using the transmitted information, the monitor automatically connected to the local Wi-Fi network and uploaded information to a simulated Electronic Health Record.

The wand communicating with a blood pressure monitor. Credit: Dartmouth College

The paper states that the wand contains two antennae that detect radio signals from the target device and discerns the target device from potentially unsecure devices based on distance from the wand.  After detecting the target device, the wand imparts its saved information onto the device.

Wanda was developed as part of the Trustworthy Health and Wellness (THaW) project. THaW aims to “provid[e] trustworthy information systems for health and wellness.” THaW is funded by the NSF’s Secure and Trustworthy Cyberspace Program. The Dartmouth researchers are scheduled to present their findings in April at IEEE INFOCOM 2016 in San Francisco, California.

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