Enterprise IT Watch Blog

Jun 23 2010   1:34PM GMT

OUTBREAK: Man infected with computer virus

Melanie Yarbrough Profile: MelanieYarbrough

Every silver lining has to have a cloud attached to it, and a headline from Xinhaunet’s Sci & Tech section provides just that. The silver lining? Technology implanted in a human to improve quality of life. The cloud? As with most exciting and cutting edge technology, lack of proper security. Thus Dr. Mark Gasson, a British scientist, has lay claim to becoming the first man to be infected with a computer virus.

Before you grab your yellow outbreak suit and throw your computers out a window, full disclosure: He infected himself. Dr. Gasson set out to demonstrate the danger of further development of medical devices such as pacemakers and cochlear implants without equal development of security.

“With the benefits of this type of technology come risks, ” Dr. Gasson told Xinhaunet. “We may improve ourselves in some way but much like improvements with other technologies, mobile phones for example, they become vulnerable to risks, such as security problems and computer viruses.”

The chip implanted in the doctor’s wrist allowed him access to secure buildings and his mobile phone. Once he contaminated the chip, the planted virus was able to pass onto external control systems. This discovery and the ease with which his experiment was executed was cause for concern for Professor Rafael Capurro of Germany’s the Steinbesi-Transfer-Institute of Information Ethics. He weighed the pros and cons of implant surveillance, telling the BBC: “Surveillance can be part of medical care, but if someone wants to do harm to you, it could be a problem.”

Both Dr. Gasson and Professor Capurro shared their findings and concerns at Australia’s International Symposium for Technology and Society this month.

With security always an underlying concern in all areas of technology, what is your take on the quest for security as developed as the technology it protects? Is Dr. Gasson’s experiment just another case of preaching to the choir, or do you think it will take a threat to human well-being—rather than just their data—to finally shape up the standards for security?

Melanie Yarbrough is the assistant community editor at ITKnowledgeExchange.com. Follow her on Twitter or send her an email at Melanie@ITKnowledgeExchange.com.

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