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New research that points to the ability of a chip implanted in a human body to infect and be infected by other systems and devices, may potentially have serious implications for implanted medical devices, which are becoming more pervasive.
British researcher Mark Gasson found that a virus-infected chip implanted in his hand was able to contaminate external systems, as well as devices that connected to those systems, Xinhua News Agency reported last month.
In response to e-mail queries from ZDNet Asia, Gasson said the aim of the research was to draw attention to the lack of security in implantable devices, including medical ones.
"Most medical devices have little if any security, and as the technology develops, they will likely become vulnerable to attacks specific to that technology, and so we need to consider this as we develop the technology," he explained. "At this stage, we know of no medical device which is at immediate risk, but the potential is there in the future unless we address the problems of security."
According to the senior research fellow at the University of Reading's School of Systems Engineering, the chip implanted in his left hand near the base of his thumb allowed him to gain access to a building, as well as to operate a designated mobile phone. It was in his body for over a year before a vulnerability in the technology was deliberately exploited.
The computer virus was then able to infect the building access system, as well as devices that connected to that particular system. In a separate experiment, the building access system was used to pass the virus onto the chip implant in Gasson.
Tied in with Gasson's assertion that persons with invasive medical implants "over time consider them to actually be part of their body", the researcher said the scenario can be stated as computer viruses infecting humans.
Read more: ZDNet