Bionic upgrades bring up security questions

03 Aug

Did Steve Austin come with Norton Anti-Virus?

Hardly a week goes by without news of some new bionic enhancement being developed, whether it’s legs, eye, arm or even butt. Heck, the editors at PopSci even put together a nice compendium of all the advancements last year. Like it or not, we’re inexorably marching toward a bionic future; most such technology is being developed to aid people who have lost such limbs and body parts, but there will doubtlessly be people who want the upgrades voluntarily.

Leave it to presenters at DefCon, the annual hacker convention in Las Vegas, to discuss the potential downside of such bio-technological modification and integration: security. As in, what happens when your spiffy new bionic arm gets hacked? Could it be used by some hacker to remotely flip people the bird?

Christian “Quaddi” Dameff and Jeff “R3plicant” Tully, third-year medical students, gave just such a presentation at this year’s event, and told Network World that regulators and the medical world are just not prepared for what is going to be a quick bionicification.

“The FDA is overloaded and influenced by legislation. Yet the attack surfaces are exploding and will continue to explode,” Quaddi said. “There will be people walking around with a zero-day in a terminal application which means a person could die due to poor security.”

Think it’s unlikely? Well, given that hackers have had no trouble interfering with pace makers… it’s more than likely, it’s probable.

So if you’re thinking about getting that new bionic eye that you had your… er… eye on, better make sure it’s got a firewall and some good anti-virus software included.


Posted by on August 3, 2012 in bionics


3 responses to “Bionic upgrades bring up security questions

  1. Marc Venot

    August 3, 2012 at 1:20 am

    Isn’t this domain where RIM should specialize?

  2. russellmcormond

    August 3, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    I’ve been discussing for years just how out-of-touch regulators are on this issue. It should be obvious that bionics should be under the control of the person it is attached to, not any third party, as a basic human rights issue. Instead we are seeing regulations which disallow owners of devices from being in control of those devices. This has considerable human rights implications far beyond privacy for bionics as well as unattached devices.

    I think it is a distraction to be concerned about “hackers” and abuses of this technology which the government intends to be illegal. I think far more harm will come if governments continue to, in the name of disallowing citizens to violate some law, disallow owners from being in control. Even if these technologies could be accurately programmed to only disobey its owner when they are breaking the law, something which is totally impossible to do, there is still considerable harm from having technology abused this way.

  3. russellmcormond

    August 3, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    BTW: I would recommend everyone look up Karen Sandler and her work on medical devices, and the risks there. Rather than creating devices which are accountable and transparent for those whose lives are being put in the hands of these devices, backward laws are being set up to disallow patients access to review software/etc. The “security by obscurity” non-security nonsense becomes more and more life threatening as we become more and more dependent on digital technology.

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