Locking it down: Finding useful ways to secure mobile medication apps for consumers

We recently finished a project funded by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada's Contributions program. Over two years, we completed two studies. Both studies are undergoing peer review and will be published at a later date.

Locking it Down: Privacy and security of mobile medication apps

The first study was an exploration of the privacy settings and policies of medication management apps available in Canada, titled, "Locking it Down".

Overall, we found that of the 184 medications on the Canadian market, 89% ask for health information beyond the list of medications and 40% ask for personal identification. However, 65% lack basic security measures such as the option of password protection. Only 10% of all apps reviewed mentioned that they encrypt the data that is stored in the app. Our conclusions were that healthcare professionals and organizations need to put pressure on mHealth developers to build secure systems that can adequately protect consumer health data.

The poster was presented this spring at the McMaster Clinical Research and Quality Improvement Symposium and at the Ontario Pharmacy Association annual conference.

Evaluating security features for mobile health applications in younger and older adults

Over the last two years, we also explored the most usable ways to secure mHealth apps with passwords. Over a period of 6 months, we recruited 59 older participants (50+) and 23 younger participants (18-30y) to try out four different password options: 4 digit PIN, Android pattern-lock, graphical password and fingerprint.

Surprisingly, we found that the PIN and pattern-lock performed well in both age groups but the fingerprint was much slower and error-prone, especially for older users. This finding is of particular interest as biometric authentication can be particularly useful in individuals who have cognitive impairment and struggle to remember passwords and PINs.

Our findings suggest that future research on biometrics should include older adults to ensure that biometric options are accessible to this critical user group.

Below is a presentation we shared at the recent McMaster Clinical Research and Quality Improvement Symposium.

Results from both studies will also be presented at the upcoming 76th FIP World Congress of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

mHealth & Passwords - Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires