Feeling sick? In the future, you might be advised to forget the doctor and research Usenet newsgroups instead. British scientist Mark Gasson of the University of Reading has become the first known human to infect himself with a computer virus.
Gasson has had a computer chip implanted in his hand which is programmed to open security doors to his lab. The chip also ensures that only he is able to switch it on with use of his mobile phone. He also infected the implant with a virus, to prove it could be transferred as the chip and the security system wirelessly exchanged electronic data.
The virus could then have been passed on to other devices interacting with the control system, such as colleagues’ swipe cards, viruses are able to spread across computer networks.
Gasson might be the only person in history to host a virtual virus in his body, but RFID implants in humans have been around for over a decade now. As a matter of fact, it was covered in multiple newsgroups when his University of Reading colleague, Kevin Warwick, made headlines in 1998 for being first person to host an RFID implant in his body for 9 days.
The chip in question was one he used to activate secure access to the university, as well as his mobile phone. He reports that “once infected, the chip corrupted the main system used to communicate with it. Should other devices have been connected to the system; the virus would have been passed on.”
The integrated chip was programmed in such a way that it would contaminate the other devices which are associated with this chip
Statistics indicate that 5 percent of U.S. pets and up to 25 percent of European animals have been implanted with RFID tracking devices.
The whole concept is admittedly a bit of a stunt, but it does address some of the issues we will start to face as implantable electronics become more prevalent. When you’re talking about putting a chip inside your body, “blue screen of death” takes on a whole new meaning, as do the potential consequences of hacking and malicious security breaches. It would definitely make surfing through Usenet a whole new experience too.
The threat, of course, is that the Dr. Claws of the world will be able to employ savvy hackers who will devise clever ways to somehow infect their targets’ Bluetooth-enabled, Internet-enabled, or otherwise scannable implants with viruses, resulting in a computer viral epidemic of swine flu-like proportions.