The future has officially arrived.
Dr Gasson deliberately introduced a computer virus into an electronic chip that had been implanted into his left hand last year, in order to study its effects.
“We are moving towards these devices being small computers that are able to store information, communicate with other devices, and perform simple computations. But with these new abilities come new risks, such as being attacked by computer viruses,” Dr Gasson said.
“There are very serious implications for medical devices. Imagine if someone developed a virus that stopped a pacemaker working.”
The chip in Dr Gasson’s hand is a high-end radio frequency identification chip, a sophisticated version of the technology used in shop security tags and for identifying pets. The device, the size of the grain of rice, allowed him secure access to University buildings and his mobile phone.
Once infected with the virus, the microchip contaminated the system that was used to communicate with it and tried to spread to other chips in contact with the system.
Dr Gasson said that the experiment had offered a “glimpse at the problems of tomorrow”.
“Developers of this technology need to consider technology from the outset, which they don’t do at the moment,” he said.
“Much like people with medical implants, after a year of having the implant, I very much feel that it is part of my body,” he said. “While it is exciting to be the first person to become infected by a computer virus in this way, I found it a surprisingly violating experience because the implant is so intimately connected to me but the situation is potentially out of my control.”
Implanted technology is starting to become more common in the United States, where it is used for example, for storing patients’ medical records. There has been some limited adoption of the technology for security purposes by the Mexican attorney general’s office, surveillance companies and a Barcelona night club.