Welcome to another edition Computers As Humans, "the tech blog that's plugged in and switched on."
The BBC has reported today that a man has implanted a chip infected with a malicious computer virus into his own hand. The man is Doctor Mark Gasson of the University of Reading and the chip he implanted is a standard RFID tag of the same sort often implanted in pets to track their whereabouts.
Gasson proclaimed himself to be the first man in the world to be infected with a computer virus. And indeed the scientist was able to demonstrate that it was possible to spread the computer virus through the chip in his hand.
The chip Gasson had implanted is a more sophisticated RIFD tag which allows him to pass through security doors and activate his cellphone. In the trials, Dr. Gasson was able to pass the virus on to external control systems.
Why exactly he had to implant the chip in his hand to demonstrate that it could remotely transmit malicious code is uncertain. But hey, he did wind up being covered by the BBC, PCmag.com, and now Computers As Humans, so good-on-ya Doctor!
Larry Seltzer at PCmag.com however slammed the implantation as a "cheap trick," and was quick to note that it would be just as easy to spread the same malicious software through a similar chip hidden in a pair of eyeglasses or a piece of jewelry.
He's right of course, but the idea of spreading a computer virus with the wave of one's hand is perhaps a little more intriquing when you author a blog called "Computers As Humans."
The implications of such research in regard to medically implanted technology would seem to have the most potential to be worrisome. Gasson for one, seems to think the possibility of humans being infected by computer viruses is a very real one.
As Gasson himself stated, "Many people with medical implants also consider them to be integrated into their concept of their body, and so in this context it is appropriate to talk in terms of people themselves being infected by computer viruses."
It is also not unforeseeable to consider that people may soon electively choose to have computer chips implanted in themselves. As Gasson said, "If we can find a way of enhancing someone's memory or IQ then there's a real possibility that people will choose to have this kind of invasive procedure."
While mister Seltzer at PCmag.com would undoubtedly write this off as sensationalism, others are not so sure.
Professor Rafael Capurro of the Steinbeis-Transfer Institute of Information and Ethics in Germany called the research, "interesting," adding that, "If someone can get online access to your implant it could be serious."
Perhaps Doctor Gasson has provided us with another example of the kind of vulnerabilities we may be opening ourselves up to as we interface more and more aspects of our lives with the digital world.