Contaminated Chip, Inside User’s Body, Can Transfer Virus To Electronic Systems That Interact With It


In what is being touted as a world first, a British scientist says he has been infected with a computer virus.
The scientist, Mark Gasson, claims to have been infected with the virus after he contaminated an electronic chip which was inserted into his hand.
Gasson, of the University of Reading, said the device was programmed with a virus which could transfer itself to other electronic systems it came in contact with, the BBC News website reported on Wednesday.
Any other chips that interacted with the infected systems would also contract the virus, he said,
raising the possibility that in the future, advanced medical devices such as pacemakers could become vulnerable to cyber attacks.
Gasson’s computer chip, a refined version of the ID chips used to track animals, has been programmed to open security doors for him and to unlock his mobile phone automatically.
The chip in Gasson’s hand is a high-end radio frequency identification chip, a sophisticated version of the technology used in shop security tags and for identifying pets. The device, the size of the grain of rice, allowed him secure access to University buildings and his mobile phone.

Once infected with the virus, the microchip contaminated the system that was used to communicate with it. It would also have infected any other devices it was connected to.
Gasson deliberately introduced a computer virus into an electronic chip that had been implanted into his left hand last year, in order to study its effects.
The results allegedly prove the principle that in future, human implants like this could contaminate increasingly complex medical devices such as pacemakers and cochlear implants.
“With the benefits of this type of technology come risks. We
may improve ourselves in some way but much like the improvements with other technologies, mobile phones for example, they become vulnerable to risks, such as security problems and computer viruses,” Gasson was quoted by BBC News as saying.
Implanted technology has become increasingly common in the United States, where medical alert bracelets can be scanned to bring up a patient’s medical history.
Professor Rafael Capurro, of the Steinbeis-Transfer-Institute of Information Ethics in Germany, added: “If someone can get online access to your im
plant, it could be serious.
“From an ethical point of view, the surveillance of implants can be both positive and negative. Surveillance can be part of medical care, but if someone wants to do harm to you, it could be a problem.”
Gasson, however, said technology with surveillance capabilities could in future become widely used for non-medical purposes. “If we can find a way of enhancing someone’s memory or their IQ then there’s a real possibility that people will choose to have this kind of invasive procedure,” he said in the BBC interview. AGENCIES

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Resource – Times of India

27 May 2010

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