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The Next Hacking Frontier: Your Brain?

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brain-controlled interface

Brain-controlled interfaces could be a target for hackers.

Credit: Wired News

Some scientists are concerned that as brain-computer interfaces become widely used and incorporate wireless technologies, "brain hacking" could become a reality. "Neural devices are innovating at an extremely rapid rate and hold tremendous promise for the future," says University of Washington computer security expert Tadayoshi Kohno. "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."

Kohno and his colleagues say most devices currently carry few security risks, but as neural engineering becomes more complex and widespread, the potential for serious security breaches expands significantly. For example, the next generation of implantable devices used to control prosthetic limbs will likely include wireless controls that enable physicians to remotely adjust settings. If hackers were to access this system they could take over a robotic limb. There is a precedent for using computers to cause neurological harm, including the November 2007 and March 2008 hacks of epilepsy support Web sites in which malicious programmers added flashing animations to cause seizures in photo-sensitive patients.

Patients also may want to hack their own devices. For example, hacking deep brain stimulators, which already use wireless signals, could enable patients to "self-prescribe" elevated moods or pain relief, which is similar to abusing traditional medications.

From Wired News
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Abstracts Copyright © 2009 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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