June 1, 2010

1 Min Read
Is It Catching? Researcher Spreads Virus from Implanted Device

The subject of potential implant hacking has generated a great deal of discussion and exploration in recent years. However, a British researcher has taken investigation of electronic implant vulnerability to the next level by becoming the first man to be 'infected' by a computer virus.

Modeling an RFID-based microchip after those used to tag pets, researcher Mark Gasson of the University of Reading's School of Systems Engineering (Reading, UK) programmed the chip to communicate with other devices in order to perform such tasks as allowing secure access to his lab. Along with programming such functionality into the chip, he also infected the implant with a virus and then planted it under his skin. The ultimate goal, according to Gasson, was to demonstrate that the virus could spread from the chip to other devices with which it interacted, similar to how computer viruses spread.

"Our research shows that implantable technology has developed to the point where implants are capable of communicating, storing, and manipulating data," Gasson told the UK's Telegraph. "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 notes that electronic implants, such as pacemakers, that wirelessly exchange information with other electronic devices could fall prey to viruses. Likewise, an implant could spread a virus to other other devices, as Gasson proved was possible.

To learn more about Gasson and his work with spreading viruses from an implant, view the below video from BBC News.

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