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article imageA person’s heartbeat can be used as a password

By Tim Sandle     Mar 1, 2017 in Technology
New York - It is now possible to protect sensitive medical records by using the heartbeat of the patient as a unique identifier. The idea is to ensure patient privacy is protected.
The unusual means to access confidential data has come from a science group at Binghamton University, State University of New York. The reason for using the heartbeat of the patient is with a view to tightening up security measures. One concern with more traditional security measures, like cryptography or encryption, is that they can, eventually, be broken into by tenacious hackers. In addition, the computer-based methods tend to be expensive and they are time-consuming to maintain.
The alternative approach is based on the patient’s unique electrocardiograph. This is the pattern of electrical activity of the heart, and it is measured by a biosensor attached to the skin. By using the correct pattern, the data can be unlocked.
Electrocardiography refers to the process of recording the electrical activity of the heart over a period. Measurements are through electrodes fixed to the skin and which detect the tiny electrical changes on the skin that arise from the heart muscle's electrophysiologic pattern of depolarizing during each heartbeat. In medicine, this is a standard cardiology test designed to assess heart health.
In a research brief, the lead researcher behind the special type of password, Professor Zhanpeng Jin explains: “The cost and complexity of traditional encryption solutions prevent them being directly applied to telemedicine or mobile healthcare. Those systems are gradually replacing clinic-centered healthcare, and we wanted to find a unique solution to protect sensitive personal health data with something simple, available and cost-effective.”
For the method, the research group reused the electrocardiograph signals for the data encryption. This allowed the security and privacy can be enhanced, while keeping costs low. It is hoped the method of capturing heartbeats will become part of the next-generation security measures for controlling the access to personalized healthcare.
The heartbeat passwords have been described in a research paper titled "A Robust and Reusable ECG-based Authentication and Data Encryption Scheme for eHealth Systems." The paper is available via the IEEE Explore Digital Library.
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