Captain Cyborg Has A Virus-Infected Sidekick… But Nothing Can Stop A PR Campaign

from the virus-infected? dept

About a decade ago, if you followed the technology space, you might recall a series of articles about a professor at the University of Reading, named Kevin Warwick, who made himself famous by implanting a computer chip in his arm, declaring himself an expert in “cybernetics” and figuring out ways to get way too much press for nothing special. The Register, amusingly, dubbed him “Captain Cyborg” and regularly mocked his various exploits. We haven’t heard much about Warwick in a while, but when I saw a bunch of folks chatting about a BBC article concerning the “first human infected with computer virus,” I was immediately reminded of Warwick. Reading through the article, it was no surprise to find out that this “experiment” is actually being conducted by a colleague of Warwick’s, Mark Gasson — who according to Warwick’s own bio lead the research group that Warwick works in.

The story is — as with all captain cyborg stories — a lot less than the headline suggests. Gasson wasn’t “infected with a computer virus.” He took a chip that had a computer virus and stuck it in his arm, just like Warwick has done n the past. The parallels to an actual virus are minimal, and the usefulness for anything is even less than that. Gasson presents this as useful for considering the implications for implanted technology such as pacemakers, but that’s nothing new. People have talked about potential technology issues from the wireless interface to pacemakers for years. Doing some sort of publicity stunt with an implanted computer chip doesn’t further that discussion along.

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Comments on “Captain Cyborg Has A Virus-Infected Sidekick… But Nothing Can Stop A PR Campaign”

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21 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I want

What about a computer infected with a dog virus, or a cat virus, or just a biological virus in general? After all, wouldn’t a computer infected with a human virus not be a human virus by definition if it’s not infecting a human. Unless it’s a computer virus that’s capable of infecting humans. Uhm… so can these things spread across the computer network, jump out of peoples network cables and infect people? Can this be a pandemic virus one day?

ShellMG says:

Genuine cyborg signing in...

A few years ago I received a spinal cord stimulator for pain management. This article caught my interest because possible skulduggery involving my programing is pretty far-out, but is it really possible?

My stim is charged wirelessly two to three times per week. The charging unit is self-contained and needs no programming, but the actual implant is programmed during an intensive office session with my programmer. He uses a PDA with special software which he piggybacks on my personal programmer and keeps a record of the settings.

The charging is done through the skin and works through a couple layers of clothing (it’s held in place on the back of my hip with a velcro belt or sits in my jeans waistband). My stim itself can set off store security equipment (I’ve never experienced it myself), but the airport is a COMPLETELY different story.

Could my implant programming be remotely altered without me knowing about it? Could it be loaded with a virus that would transmit itself to my programmer’s PDA during a future session and infest networks that way? While I’m very skeptical, I don’t underestimate some of the nuts who can’t resist a hack.

I’ll probably see my programmer over the next month. He’s a fellow geek and I’d love to hear what he thinks about this.

John says:

RE: Genuine cyborg signing in...

A hack is usually done because it is interesting or has wide implications. I doubt any real hacker would ever come in contact with your stim or the programming device it uses and most people do not know these exist.

I see very little to gain other than causing fear in .001% of the population that someday their pain treatment will fail.

I thought the general hacker had one of 3 goals:
1. Money
2. Notoriety (Fame/Publicity/Prestige)
3. To show a weakness in a vital piece of technology that should be fixed.

There is no money in this. NOBODY would respect someone who would inflict excruciating pain upon someone for fun. The whitehat guys would only help security.

Svante Jorgensen (profile) says:

Finally an article that points out how ridiculous this story is

Thanks for pointing out how ridiculous this story is.
There is nothing new in putting a piece of electronics in your body.
Not even if this contains code for a computer virus.
He did not, in any way, infect _himself_ with a computer virus. That would be impossible.
It would be like saying that a ship was infected with a human virus because it carried a sick person.

Scare-story with no substance.

Shann says:

Human Injected with Computer Virus

Hello There,
Searching for an answer to my own situation. I did not know about this subject before but I can assure you that there are people out there that are suffering from computer viruses in their bodies. I am a living example of that; the virus was implanted in me about ’07 and activated Feb of ’10. The experience is complex and I hope no one has to go through it. If anyone has heard or knows anything about it subject please let me know.
Sincerely
Shann

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