Adding security to implantable medical devices: Can we afford it?

Muhammad Ali Siddiqi, Angeliki Agathi Tsintzira, Georgios Digkas, Miltiadis Siavvas, Christos Strydis

Research output: Chapter/Conference proceedingConference proceedingAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
139 Downloads (Pure)


Implantable Medical Devices (IMDs) belong to a class of highly life-critical, resource-constrained, deeply embedded systems out there. Their gradual conversion to wirelessly accessible devices in recent years has made them amenable to numerous successful ethical-hacking attempts. These attacks were made possible due to the absence of proper security provisions in IMDs. IMD manufacturers have only very recently started taking cybersecurity threats seriously, a move that will force development teams to overhaul IMD designs and grow sharper reflexes in an industry that has historically opted for small, careful steps. Thus, valid concerns arise regarding the technical feasibility but, chiefly, the economic viability of adding security to IMDs. In this work, we assess the economic repercussions of securing IMDs by employing the concept of technical debt (TD) on the evolving IMD software. Our quantitative analysis reveals that security-related costs are currently well in hand, however, security-code TD amasses faster and will eventually overtake medical-code TD. The economic viability of IMDs will, thus, be ensured only if security-development efforts are allocated significant resources within the next decade.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEWSN 2021: Proceedings of the 2021 International Conference on Embedded Wireless Systems and Networks
EditorsPolly Huang, Marco Zuniga
PublisherJunction Publishing
ISBN (Print)9780994988652
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021
EventInternational Conference on Embedded Wireless Systems and Networks, EWSN 2021 - Delft, Netherlands
Duration: 17 Feb 202119 Feb 2021

Publication series

SeriesInternational Conference on Embedded Wireless Systems and Networks


ConferenceInternational Conference on Embedded Wireless Systems and Networks, EWSN 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work has been supported by the EU-funded project SDK4ED (Grant Agreement No. 780572) and would not have been completed without the invaluable feedback of Prof. Christian Doerr, Dr. Apostolos Ampatzoglou, Prof. Alexandros Chatzigeorgiou and Paris Avgeriou.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 the authors.


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