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Researchers have developed a digital “magic wand” hardware device to improve home health care and to stop hackers from stealing your personal information.

Wireless and mobile health technologies have amazing potential to enhance quality and access to care, reduce costs and improve health, said one of the researchers David Kotz, professor of computer science at Dartmouth in the U.S.

“But these new technologies, whether in the form of software for smartphones or specialised devices to be worn, carried or applied as needed, also pose risks if they’re not designed or configured with security and privacy in mind,” Kotz noted.

One of the main challenges is that almost all individuals don’t know how to set up and maintain a secure network in their home, which might result in compromised or stolen information or potentially enable hackers access to vital devices like heart rate monitors or dialysis machines.

In the new Dartmouth-based project, the researches developed “Wanda”, a small hardware device that has two antennas separated by one-half wavelength and uses radio strength as a channel.

The clever solution makes it simple for individuals to add a brand new device to their home (or clinic) Wi-Fi network: they merely pull the wand from a USB port on the Wi-Fi access point, carry it near the new device and point it at the device.

Within a couple of seconds, the wand securely beams the secret Wi-Fi network info to the device.

The same technique may be used to transfer any data from the wand to the new device without anyone nearby capturing the secrets or tampering with the information.

“People love this new approach to connecting devices to Wi-Fi,” Tim Pierson from Dartmouth College said.

“We anticipate our `Wanda’ technology being useful in a wide variety of applications, not just healthcare, and for a wide range of device management tasks, not just Wi-Fi network configuration,” Kotz said.

The findings will be presented at the IEEE International Conference on Computer Communications in San Francisco in April.

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