Scientist says he’s infected with a computer virus

A scientist at the University of Reading says he’s become the first person in the world to be infected by a computer virus.

Dr Mark Gasson, from the School of Systems Engineering, contaminated a computer chip which was then implanted in his hand. He says it’s no gimmick, but could have huge implications for health devices such as heart pacemakers and cochlear implants.

“Our research shows that implantable technology has developed to the point where implants are capable of communicating, storing and manipulating data,” he said.

“They are essentially mini computers. This means that, like mainstream computers, they can be infected by viruses and the technology will need to keep pace with this so that implants, including medical devices, can be safely used in the future.”

A high-end Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chip was implanted into Gasson’s left hand last year, giving him secure access to his University building and his mobile phone.

Once infected, the chip corrupted the main system used to communicate with it.

“I believe it is necessary to acknowledge that our next evolutionary step may well mean that we all become part machine as we look to enhance ourselves,” says Gasson.

“Indeed, we may find that there are significant social pressures to have implantable technologies, either because it becomes as much of a social norm as say mobile phones, or because we’ll be disadvantaged if we do not. However we must be mindful of the new threats this step brings.”