NSF's 'THaW' team aims to fix mHealth security issues with $10M grant

Trustworthy Health and Awareness, a National Science Foundation-funded project, has received a $10 million, five-year grant from NSF's Secure and Trustworthy Cyberspace program. THaW plans to use the grant to address medical app insecurity and improve hospital IT security.

David Kotz, a professor of computer science at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., who leads THaW, said Thursday in a statement that mobile apps and medical devices are currently security weakpoints for most healthcare organizations.

"Mobile medical applications offer tremendous opportunities to improve quality and access to care, reduce costs and improve individual wellness and public health," Mr. Kotz says. "However, these new technologies, whether in the form of software for smartphones or specialized devices to be worn, carried or applied as needed, may also pose risks if they are not designed or configured with security and privacy in mind."

THaW team members have already conducted a handful of studies to determine the efficacy of storing and exchanging sensitive medical data on apps, identifying a variety of vulnerabilities for cybercriminals to exploit. The group has also delved into the security capabilities of hospitals workstations and computers. THaW is now exploring authentication methods that would better secure them and the sensitive data they contain.

"THaW research is identifying gaps in security and providing practical security solutions," Mr. Kotz says. "We are developing novel methods for security and privacy, so we can help usher in an era of effective and secure mHealth solutions."

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