Advancing Medical Security and Enhancing Student Research Opportunities

August 24, 2021
Kougianos, Monhanty and Rout headshots on green backgrounds
Elias Kougianos, Electrical Engineering; Saraju Mohanty, Computer Science and Engineering; and Bibhudutta Rout, Physics

College of Science

UNT researcher and professor Bibhudutta Rout from Physics, alongside Saraju Mohanty from UNT Computer Science and Engineering and Elias Kougianos from UNT Electrical Engineering are collaborating with a team led by Babu Baniya from the Grambling State University on a half-million dollar NSF grant to advance medical security and broaden participation of historically underrepresented students in STEM education and research.

The NSF project titled "iMed-Sec: Exploring Hardware-Assisted Solutions for Energy-Efficient Low-Overhead Security and Privacy for the Internet-of-Medical-Things" has been recently awarded by National Science Foundation (NSF), Division of Computer and Network Systems (CNS) a total of half million dollars funds under Broadening Participation in Computing, Engineering, and HBCU-Excellence in Research for 2021-2024.

Internet-of-Medical-Things (IoMT) based Healthcare Cyber-Physical Systems (H-CPS) make smart healthcare possible. Frost and Sullivan market research report predicts the smart healthcare market value to reach $350 billion by 2025. 

Security of Implantable Medical Devices (IMDs) and Wearable Medical Devices (WMDs) is one of the major concerns of IoMT, in addition to medical data privacy and security. As IoMT devices are always connected to Internet, they are susceptible to dangerous cybersecurity threats. 

"It is reported that wearable devices such as insulin pumps are being hacked quite easily, or in the case of some pacemakers, connect to Wi-Fi but have no security features," say Rout and Mohanty. The team recognized the need for cybersecurity for IoMT and decided to work on these concerns to have maximum social impact.

"Hacking of IoMT devices can be life threatening," say the investigators. "For example, if hackers break into the Wi-Fi enables implantable like pacemaker and drains battery, then complicated life-threatening surgery is necessary to replace it. The typical battery life of a pacemaker is 8 to 10 years. If hackers hack the insulin pump and controls dosage, then it can lead to serious health complicacies."

The iMed-Sec research requires a unique, interdisciplinary team to address the issues in this project and there are a very few teams in the country currently working on IoMT cybersecurity. iMed-Sec will develop energy efficient security features that can be added to IoMT devices in H-CPS framework.

The researchers at UNT are collaborating with Grambling State University (GRAM), an HBCU (Historically Black College/University) in the state of Louisiana. Each semester ten to fifteen undergraduate students from GRAM will visit UNT to carry out research, interact with students at UNT, and explore opportunities for future graduate studies, enhancing UNT's reputation as a place for diversity and inclusion.