Documenting the Coming Singularity

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Brain Hacking - Security issue of the future

Editor's Note: Just about everyone who's not a Ted Kaczynski disciple knows that computer networks are constantly facing an onslaught of attacks from hackers. The only computers that are relatively safe are those that are not attached to any network. It used to be that human brains were in that category, safely ensconced withing the confines of our skulls. That safely may be ending soon. As implants are incorporated and connected wirelessly to the outside world, what makes us think that hackers won't try to gain control? Talk about zombies.

Wired Science - July 9, 2009, by Hadley Leggett

Hackers who commandeer your computer are bad enough. Now scientists worry that someday, they’ll try to take over your brain.

In the past year, researchers have developed technology that makes it possible to use thoughts to operate a computer, maneuver a wheelchair or even use Twitter — all without lifting a finger. But as neural devices become more complicated — and go wireless — some scientists say the risks of “brain hacking” should be taken seriously.

“Neural devices are innovating at an extremely rapid rate and hold tremendous promise for the future,” said computer security expert Tadayoshi Kohno of the University of Washington. “But if we don’t start paying attention to security, we’re worried that we might find ourselves in five or 10 years saying we’ve made a big mistake.”

Hackers tap into personal computers all the time — but what would happen if they focused their nefarious energy on neural devices, such as the deep-brain stimulators currently used to treat Parkinson’s and depression, or electrode systems for controlling prosthetic limbs? According to Kohno and his colleagues, who published their concerns July 1 in Neurosurgical Focus, most current devices carry few security risks. But as neural engineering becomes more complex and more widespread, the potential for security breaches will mushroom.

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