The custom silicon chip, CryptoFirewall, made by Cryptography Research Inc., works to prevent the manufacture of counterfeit devices.
Encryption techniques have safeguarded against breaches of security in everything from consumer electronics to military and government communications. Now, Cryptography Research, a security consulting and technology licensing firm, is transferring its data-protection know-how to the medical device industry in order to prevent product cloning, thus ensuring patient safety.
Medical device cloning is a troubling phenomenon often targeting single-use patient-interface devices, such as probe kits, that are used in conjunction with diagnostic equipment, explains Benjamin Jun, vice president of technology for Cryptography Research. The company’s cryptography technology addresses the dangers associated with the remanufacture and cloning of consumables. It also can prevent the modification of the equipment verifier to permit the diagnostic system to accept a counterfeit disposable product.
“We have a technology that involves putting a security chip in the consumable itself—in the patient probe kit—as well as a chip in the piece of medical diagnostic equipment,” Jun says. “These two chips talk to each other and basically authenticate the consumable and also meter its usage.”
The consequences of device counterfeiting can be significant; not only can OEMs lose revenue, but patient safety could be seriously compromised through the use of these noncertified disposable products. In the past, defense against such dishonest practices has often entailed the use of holograms. However, this approach is flawed because medical care providers must actually open the package and study the hologram in order for it to be useful, according to Jun. He adds that the falling cost of manufacturing holograms could further reduce the efficacy of this security model.
“Most people just don’t know that you can apply cryptography in a more-advanced way. Our logic isn’t just something that can speak a password; it is designed to be resistant to certain kinds of attacks that are very common,” Jun says. “There are a couple of things that are designed to make our logic difficult to reverse engineer, difficult to tamper with, and difficult to extract secrets from.”
The company currently integrates its custom technology into both the existing application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) in the single-use component as well as into the ASIC in the corresponding diagnostic equipment. However, the firm is working with several chip manufacturers to develop an off-the-shelf solution.
Cryptography Research, San Francisco