[LINK] Implant risks

stephen at melbpc.org.au stephen at melbpc.org.au
Sun May 30 21:06:56 AEST 2010

Scientist Becomes First Human 'Infected' With Computer Virus

As implantable medical device technology advances, so will potential 
risks, researcher warns.


FRIDAY, May 28 (HealthDay News) -- Implantable devices, such as 
pacemakers, defibrillators and cochlear implants, are becoming vulnerable 
to "infection" with computer viruses, a researcher in England warns.

To prove his point, Mark Gasson, a scientist at the University of 
Reading's School of Systems Engineering, allowed himself to become  
"Exhibit A."

Gasson said he became the first person in the world to be infected with a 
computer virus after he "contaminated" a high-end radio frequency 
identification (RFID) computer chip -- the kind often used as a security 
tag in stores to prevent theft -- which he had implanted into his left 

The point, Gasson explained, was to draw attention to the risks involved 
with the use of increasingly sophisticated implantable medical device 

"Our research shows that implantable technology has developed to the 
point where implants are capable of communicating, storing and 
manipulating data," he said in a university news release. "They are 
essentially mini computers. This means that, like mainstream computers, 
they can be infected by viruses and the technology will need to keep pace 
with this so that implants, including medical devices, can be safely used 
in the future."

Gasson is scheduled to present his findings at the IEEE International 
Symposium on Technology and Society, held June 7 to 9 in Australia, for 
which he also will serve as chairman.

The chip Gasson had implanted enabled him to access his place of work and 
his cell phone, as well as allowing others to track and profile his 

But once "infected," the chip disrupted the proper functioning of the 
mainframe system with which it had been communicating, and would have 
done the same to any other device that might have been similarly hooked 
up to the network, he said.

"By infecting my own implant with a computer virus, we have demonstrated 
how advanced these technologies are becoming and also had a glimpse at 
the problems of tomorrow," Gasson said.

"Much like people with medical implants, after a year of having the 
implant, I very much feel that it is part of my body," he added. "While 
it is exciting to be the first person to become infected by a computer 
virus in this way, I found it a surprisingly violating experience because 
the implant is so intimately connected to me but the situation is 
potentially out of my control."



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