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The hackable human?

What are the security or the other realities of connecting our bodies to the internet? It’s no longer the stuff of Hollywood films. People have inside them implantable aids such as pacemakers, insulin pumps and hearing aids.

What of people who choose to have technology in their bodies not for medical reasons, but for convenience: to let them control door locks, or buy goods at the wave of a hand? Is the data inside such bodies, hackable? Or should that be bio-hacking? BioNyfiken, a Sweden based bio-hacking community, takes the view that having a smart sub-dermal implant is not so different from wearing an earring or having a tattoo.

Patrick Mylund Nielsen, Senior Security Researcher at Kaspersky Lab, said “The trend within the Internet of Things has been to create products and get them to market fast. Security is often an afterthought, if it’s even a thought at all. And although bio-augmentation has been the topic of science fiction for as long as we can remember, not many stories dealt with its everyday implications: what happens when our private keys are under our skin? Can somebody become a virtual copy of me by shaking my hand? Who might be following me everywhere I go? “Nyfiken” means curious in Swedish, and when it comes to answering these questions, indeed we are.”

Hannes Sjoblad, one of the founders of BioNyfiken, says: “We are seeing a fast-growing community of people experimenting with chip implants, which allow users to quickly and easily perform a variety of everyday tasks, such as allowing access to buildings, unlocking personal devices without PIN codes and enabling read access to various types of stored data. I consider the take-off of this technology as another important interface-moment in the history of human-computer interaction, similar to the launches of the first Windows desktop or the first touch screen. Identification by touch is innately natural for humans. PIN codes and passwords are not natural. And every additional device that we have to carry around to identify ourselves be it a key fob or a swipe card, is just another item that clutters our lives.”

Kaspersky Lab is BioNyfiken’s research partner. The companies are looking at the vulnerabilities of computer chips in everyday human uses. Eugene Kaspersky, chairman and CEO of Kaspersky Lab, said: “Personally, I’d rather not be chipped. I do however understand that technological progress cannot be hindered and there will be innovators who are ready to accept the risk and test the limits of technology by experimenting on their own bodies. I’d just rather they did this with their eyes open and with security at the forefront of their minds, instead of as a retrofit after-thought, as so often occurs.”

Pictured: graffiti in Portsmouth commercial centre.


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