Tag Archives: cybernetics

A tiny, self-propelled medical device that would be wirelessly powered from outside the body, enabling devices small enough to move through the bloodstream. (c) Stanford University

Cyber-crime turns frightening real: hacking pacemakers and other medical devices

It seems like a scenario from a bad spy movie: someone hacking a medical device like an insulin pump or pacemaker and control it at his will. Unfortunately, this is all but possible.

There are currently millions of people fitted with various electronic devices, some of which we’ve featured here on ZME Science. These range from smart regulatory devices that adjust things like heart beats or deliver drugs to simple tiny monitoring devices, that feedback data in real time and can provide valuable info otherwise unavailable.

A tiny, self-propelled medical device that would be wirelessly powered from outside the body, enabling devices small enough to move through the bloodstream. (c) Stanford University

A tiny, self-propelled medical device that would be wirelessly powered from outside the body, enabling devices small enough to move through the bloodstream. (c) Stanford University

However, scientists and government offices paid little attention to cyber attacks on such devices, either because they couldn’t believe something like this would be possible or simply because the technology employed today doesn’t allow for fitting cyber protection. Energy consumption is one of the biggest concern  when designing such tiny medical implants, and factor of the matter is battery life can only allow for so few processes. On top of that, it’s not like you can update your firmware on your pacemaker. An update signifies surgery.

The first signs that hinted towards the idea of cyber threats to medical implants as a genuine possibility came in 2008 when academic researchers demonstrated an attack that allowed them to intercept medical information from implantable cardiac devices and pacemakers and to cause them to turn off or issue life-threatening electrical shocks. Back then it would’ve cost thousands of dollars for a hacker to afford the necessary equipment to intercept a transmitter, but today you can do it just as well with only $20 using an Arduino module.

A McAfee security analyst demonstrated in July that he could scan and identify insulin pumps that communicate wirelessly and have any such pump immediately dump all its contents within a range of 300 feet. The same security analyst showed at a conference how he reverse engineered a pacemaker and could deliver an 830-volt shock to a person’s device from 50 feet away. Now that’s an assassination.

Indeed many companies took notice of this and haven’t taken the issue lightly. Noise shields or biometric heartbeat sensors to allow devices within a body to communicate with each other, keeping out intruding devices and signals. Governments are looking to staple regulations designed to protect patients from cyber attacks, and have future implants meet a certain anti-malware criteria. Still, it seems like the enforcing bodies are trailing behind the fast expanding branch of medical cyber-crime. I recommend you read more on the subject at these editorials from Fast Company and Singularity Hub.

If you have an electronic medical implant currently in your body or are considering one, please don’t be startled. There has been no reported actual attack on a person so far, so no one was injured let alone killed by hacking his medical device, despite being possible.

Behind today’s cyborg technology – reality more closer to fiction than you think

Biomechanics has come a long way during the past few decades, on trend with the exponential growth of CPUs and electronics, in general. Articulated limbs or artificial optic units are just a few of today’s options that individuals with various impairments and disabilities can use to make their lives closer to normal. Limitations exist of course, but they’re only imposed by technology which is constantly growing at an exponential rate.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution is the most exiting video game to come out in a long time, impressing through gameplay, graphics and story line. The setting of Deus Ex is that of a 2027 dystopian Earth where the world is dominated by corporations and humans are addicted to cyborg components and upgrades provided by them. The cyborgs in the video game Deus Ex, half-human/half machine, are capable of extraordinary things once with they’re new found biomechanical upgrades. But how far are we today from Deus Ex’s extraordinary cyborg concepts?

I’m pretty sure some of you will be extremely surprised by the level of technology and capabilities cybernetic modifications is at in present day. Rob Spence, a present day cyborg and filmmaker known as the Eyeborg, worked with Square Enix to shoot an incredible documentary which references today’s fast paced cyborg industry.

Left without an eye after a dreadful shotgun accident, Spence now has a biomechanical eye implant made. In the documentary, Spence, the perfect host, speaks to other extremely interesting persons who’ve had various modifications. As scientists and engineers work to bring these mechanical modifications to replace the natural missing part, whether it’s a leg, arm, eye, whatever, the temptation to actually bring enhancements and improvements is there. When confronted with the possibility of upgrading your current physical and even intellectual abilities via cybernetic implants, a lot of people might be compelled to opt for them.

The premise is there for a real Deus Ex world in the future, hopefully without the downfalls. Spence explores all these exiting concepts in his documentary, Deus Ex: The Eyeborg Documentary, which can be viewed in its entirety right below.  This is recommended viewing.

via SingularityHub