back to article Pain in the brain! Kaspersky warns of hackable brain implants

A newly developed class of brain implants could also become hacking targets, researchers are warning. Kaspersky Lab and the University of Oxford Functional Neurosurgery Group warn in a joint report that the brain stimulation devices used to treat disorders like Parkinson's and OCD carry with them security vulnerabilities that …

  1. GrapeBunch

    Help. A hacker overclocked my brain implant and it's now 2047.

    Mine's the one with a bottle containing 42 nips, in the pocket.

  2. Mayday

    While I believe security is important (very much so),

    It takes a special kind of c*nt to hack and otherwise mess with someone's life saving medical device.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: While I believe security is important (very much so),

      "It takes a special kind of c*nt to hack and otherwise mess with someone's life saving medical device."

      Replying AC because when I read the article my first thought was "what a great laugh it would be to hack somebody's chip and take control, and do fun stuff like making them lurch about doing a zombie walk, or slapping the bottoms of any passers by".

      I suppose you're right, I AM special. Bwahahahahahaa

    2. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

      Re: While I believe security is important (very much so),

      And yet there are people who would...

      Lets just say a defector has a pacemaker fitted.... much easier just walking past him and reprogramming the pacemaker to ignore any problems than to say , smear his front door in nerve gas solution....

      1. Mayday
        Black Helicopters

        Re: While I believe security is important (very much so),

        "Lets just say a defector has a pacemaker fitted"

        You never used to play Metal Gear Solid 2 by any chance?

    3. Tigra 07
      Black Helicopters

      Re: While I believe security is important (very much so),

      "It takes a special kind of c*nt to hack and otherwise mess with someone's life saving medical device"

      Or your average intelligence service...

    4. steviebuk Silver badge

      Re: While I believe security is important (very much so),

      Assasins will use whatever they can. Would be a dream for them.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    But officer, I didn't break the law, somebody hacked my brain implant and made me do it!

  4. Dan 55 Silver badge
  5. technoise

    Charlie Brooker

    With hackable brain implants, Charlie Brooker would be a bit late to the game if he started writing about them now.

    They have been the main theme of the Ghost in the Shell universe since it first came into being in the late 1980s, and I suspect it's not the first.

    1. Chozo

      Re: suspicion

      LarryNiven's Tales of Known Space series circa 1968 specifically mentions hackable brain implants.

      Further back there is 'Aelita: Queen of Mars' a 1924 silent film however that used external mind control helmets.

  6. LateAgain

    Forget hacking. It would be a medical device. So requires a test suite with full access to everything.

  7. JassMan Silver badge

    How would they ever know?

    "Although no attacks targeting neurostimulators have been observed in the wild, points of weakness exist that will not be hard to exploit," said Kaspersky Lab researcher Dmitry Galov.

    Anybody hacking a brain implant is obviously going remove the targets memory of having been hacked. The first rule of hacking is always edit the logs.

  8. NiceCuppaTea

    Why the obsession with wireless and remote management. Yeah its convenient but there has always been a balancing act for security. Ease of access for those authorized vs security, if an implant was to be put in my head i would insist on having an RS232 socket installed behind one of my ears and thats the only access (RS232 because its hella slow and anyone wanting to fuck with me should have to sit there for hours waiting for an "update" to happen).

    1. Suricou Raven

      Poking wires through skin is poor design - they are prone to damage and infection. Implant engineers use it when there's no other option, but the preference is for short-range wireless connection using something like coupled coils.

    2. hplasm

      "i would insist on having an RS232 socket installed behind one of my ears"

      Just sit in this evil looking dentist chair, Neo, whilst I get this big spike ready...

  9. sqlartist

    I have one of these

    I have one of these implants and whilst I'm really not concerned it is true that if a hacker were to get access they could cause me to have a stroke. I have a setting range of 2.2 - 6.6 and currently set to 4.4 because of the level of pain I am currently in. When I went into Oxford for reprogramming last time they could not set the upper bounds therefore my patient programmer device could allow me to increase it to 6.0+ which is instant stroke time.

    I have one of the devices that is charged up by wireless charging but it has to be sitting on my chest to activate.

    1. Tigra 07

      Re: Sqlartist

      Would a tinfoil hat protect you from these hackers and miscreants Sqlartist?

      Finally a conspiracy theory where a tinfoil hat is plausible!

      1. sqlartist

        Re: Sqlartist

        I am convinced that I affect wireless networks in the 5ghz range - no proof and I realise I have a heightened awareness but they do seem to have an unfair share of glitches when I'm about.

        I also seem to attract insects due to the electrical signals - again no hard evidence but its ridiculous how I am attacked by wasps and other things. I did read a paper that showed ants were attracted to stimulating effects of the device.

        So yes a tin foil hat would work, unless of course it acted as a booster!

        I did ask someone if they could use wireshark to see what the device was emitting but decided it probably be left best to leave it alone given that it has saved me from 13 years of pain/hell

        1. Tigra 07

          Re: Sqlartist

          Are you able to affect the signal to a television?

          If you can harness this microwave power for good, then i see a bright future for you as Earth's first superhero. Or a dark future for all of us if you use your Bee Keeping powers for evil.

          Are we calling you Static Man? Captain Tinfoil? The BeeKeeper?

          I for one welcome our static, bee conjuring, tinfoil wearing overlord!

    2. Palpy

      Re: I have one of these... and at some point ransomeware gets serious.

      sqlartist, your device appears not to be controlled over any network. Which is good!

      Because imagine receiving this message on your phone: "Mr Houndsputtee, blakhatts groop has taken control of you pacemaker model XXYYZZ. We dont know what setting will make you heart attack. Unless we get 50 bitcoin you will find out!!!"

      How many people would pay even if they had not been hacked, because they had no way to be sure?

      So forth and so on. Brave new world and all that.

  10. lglethal Silver badge

    I don't know why, but my first thought was along the lines of "ahhh, so that's what happened to John McAffee"... ;)

  11. Jay Lenovo

    Hackable vulnerabilities, that could force you to migrate to the eternal cloud.

  12. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    This is a bit late

    The Brain Hacking meme was well documented in the movie Total Recall about 30 years ago ... but it's easy to beat it as the link demonstrates.

    1. Zorg

      Re: Nope

      What he removed from his sinus was a location transmitter. There were no implants. The brain was modified directly. The machine that did it is pictured at the beginning of the article.

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