The Modern Cyborg – Are Your Cybernetic Implants Secure?

We are at the peak of modern advancement. Many of everyday processes have been streamlined or fully automated to make our lives easier. And while it may seem like the stuff of science fiction, technology has reached a point where our bodies can become
augmented through cybernetic implants. You can now employ these devices to make data transfer faster and easier. People with different medical conditions benefit from medical apparatuses that they can insert directly into their bodies. This helps cure their ailments or reduce their symptoms.

The Modern Cyborg - Are Your Implants Safe

The Modern Cyborg – Are Your Implants Safe

Unfortunately, these devices pose a glaring flaw – they make use of wireless transfer technology. Now, you might be asking how this can seem like a disadvantage. To put it simply, devices using this type of technology are open to hacking.

Are Your Cyborg Implants Secure? – Content Index

Are cybernetic organisms making your life easier? Well, don’t be too comfortable. Although they have physical benefits, they’re still devices. So, they’re at risk of a hacking attack. Take a look at this guide and learn everything about how secure these cybernetic implants are.

Hacking Threats Are Becoming More And More Prevalent

Hacking usually refers to any unauthorized breach in a network or computer system. Obviously, whoever engages is indeed a hacker. These tech-savvy people bypass or breakthrough security measures and alter the system to reach their goals.

Hackers can steal your personal data or private information and use them for their own gain. Without the right security, any hacker can breach almost every smart device. If a hacker wants to breach into a network, they find vulnerable programs within the network that
they can use it to enter the system.

The most vulnerable devices usually use some form of transmission technology like radio or cloud connections. Sadly, implants fall under this category.

What Are Cybernetic Implants?

A cybernetic implant is any manufactured device that doctors place inside a living body to replace, support, or enhance a specific biological structure.

These inventions have helped thousands of medical patients with different conditions ranging from heart disease to dementia. People also use other implants as active transponders or storage for information. The benefits are endless, and this technology can only get better from here.

There are, however, inherent risks that come with these devices. Only a couple of years ago, there was a scare that many cybernetic organisms pose a legitimate threat to the health and safety of their users. However, what many don’t realize is that they are potential vectors for hacking attacks.

These Type Of Devices Are Vulnerable To Hacking

Implants usually have these technologies as part of their general structure to improve their process. Unfortunately, the very same technologies make these devices a prime target for criminals.

Cloud Connections

Cloud ConnectionThe cloud is the term used in describing a large network of computer programs that perform a specific function. Clouds aren’t physical entities, but a collection of remote servers that span the whole globe, operating together as one single system.

These servers act as a form of storage to manage data, and they can also deliver said data to different systems. So instead of accessing data or files from a computer, you can access them from anywhere in the world using an internet device. Most people believe that the cloud is a secure system.

Yes, it does have security measures in place, but not enough to ensure total safety. Hackers always target the cloud and they’re successful most of the time. Have you ever heard of account attacks hosted within the cloud? Maybe a celebrity’s private pictures leak for everyone to see? Well, that’s due to the fact that the hacker obtained all of them illegally through the cloud.

Many private companies still suffer breaches through their cloud-based services. In fact, even large and established servers like Google Accounts and Dropbox got their fair share of reports of hacking attempts and both use cloud connections. If all of these systems have the capacity to get hacked, who’s to stop the hackers from breaching into implants that use cloud technology as well?

Many medical cybernetic organisms in the market, such as pacemakers and infusion pumps, were found to be very prone to hacking. Device manufacturers are now being pressured to make their products more secure, and while this will increase the time and cost to market, this isn’t something negotiable.

Bluetooth Connections

BluetoothBluetooth is essentially a form of wireless technology that exchanges data between two devices. This exchange can only happen over short distances because Bluetooth uses UHF radio waves that are short in wavelength.

It was conceived as an alternative to data cables that require a physical connection. You can say it’s an upgrade to infrared connections that require very close proximity between devices.

Bluetooth is now the standard for wire-replacement communications for its low power consumption, adequate range, and inexpensive production of its transceiver microchips. These devices use a form of a radio communications system, meaning devices don’t need to be in sight of each other to transfer data.

This technology comes with a risk of being prone to hacking. Only two years ago “April 2017”, researchers from Armis, a private company that focuses on device security, discovered a number of exploits in many platforms that all use Bluetooth software.

These platforms include Google Android, Apple iOS, Microsoft Windows, and Linux, and the said vulnerabilities were dubbed “BlueBorne.” These weak parts of the system can allow hackers to connect to any of these systems without any form of authentication and fully control a Bluetooth device.

Fortunately, Armis contacted these companies to patch up their software and fix the flawed components. This basically means that any implant with a Bluetooth function, or any radio communications function for that matter, also has the capacity to get hacked.

These Implants Aren’t Safe!

Be careful what you implant in your body. You’ve probably heard of incidents where chips and the likes are being implanted in both the brain and the heart. Well, these implants are somehow dangerous. Take a look:

1. Brain Implant

Brain ChipNeural or brain implants are any technological device that is connected directly to an individual’s brain, whether directly on the surface or attached to a part of its cortex.

Most modern neural implants exist to circumvent any area of a brain that has become dysfunctional because of a stroke or any grievous head injury.

Functions can include sensory replacement like vision or smell. It can also record brain activity to enhance the level of related research, essentially creating an interface between computer chips and a neural system.

Brain implants are currently one of the best options to treat patients with depression and Parkinson’s disease, but reports from Kapersky (a cybersecurity software establishment) and Oxford University’s Functional Neurosurgery Group have both warned that hackers can tap into these with ease.

Granted, there are no real-life examples of criminal hackers infiltrating these devices yet, but it’s only a matter of time until they exploit these system weaknesses for their own gain.

2. Cardiac Implants

Cardiac ChipCardiac implants are medical devices used to improve or replace one or numerous heart functions. Implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) for instance, are devices operating on batteries that fit under a patient’s skin to keep track of their heart rate.

Pacemakers are also implants that operate on batteries with a function of helping the heart maintain its normal rhythmic beat. Back in October 2018, the FDA released a Safety Communication to inform both healthcare providers and their patients about the glaring vulnerabilities in Medtronic’s cardiac implants.

Medtronic is a company that produces supplies for a large portion of many medical devices. This wasn’t the first time the “FDA” has issued warnings that concern cardiac implants.

Since 2017, they have sent four warnings to the public about the present vulnerabilities of these devices to keep them fully informed. The problem with most implants using wireless transfer is that they have no authorization or authentication systems. This means that once the device activates, it leaves itself open to any attack.

There is, however, a silver lining. Hackers would need to be in very close proximity to their target in order to control their implant. In response to the “Safety Communication”, Medtronic is currently working on a fix that addresses the encryption and identification weakness.

Despite these flaws with the potential to threaten one’s health and safety, the FDA is still recommending patients to use their devices because the benefits (remote monitoring, regulation, etc.) far outweigh the risks.

3. RFID Implants

RFID ImplantAn RFID transponder or an identifying integrated circuit device is a tool usually covered in silicate glass then implanted in a human’s body, underneath their skin.

This subdermal implant may contain an ID number unique to its user. Consequently, this can link to useful information from an outside database.

These devices keep track of a person’s identification or even their medical history (i.e., their allergies, blood type, current medications, or contact information.)

This proves to be invaluable in the event of an accident, where medical professionals can quickly get the information they need from these implants.

Back in 2007, the American Medical Association published a report alleging that the security of these RFID implanted chips is weak, and could compromise the privacy and safety of its users.

4. NFC Implants

NFC ImplantNFC (Near-field Communication) implant is an RFID that uses a higher frequency compared to other conventional RFID tags. It also has different protocols and standards that allow that gives it both a reader and tag function.

This makes it more proficient than other RFID tags in terms of adaptability, where other technologies like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are good tools that facilitate information sharing.

NFC implants have an identification function that can open electronic doors. These devices also act as a passive transponder that can record or read data using active transponders like smartphones that are compatible with NFC.

This function is useful for an array of different functions like contactless payment, password input, cryptocurrency storage, and biometrics. Unfortunately, they pose the same risk as other RFID tags.

While it is particularly difficult to hack into a chip that’s subdermally implanted, many have voiced their concerns because criminals simply need to be in close proximity and use NFC-capable devices or scanners to obtain data from a user’s implant.

To combat this potential threat, many have opted to use RFID-blocking sleeves that can be worn over an implant as an added security measure.

5. Cochlear Implants

Cochlear ImplantCochlear implants (CI) are neuroprosthetic devices that are surgically implanted in a patient with sensorineural hearing loss to provide a sense of sound.

These devices completely bypass the normal hearing process and replace it with electric signals sent directly to the auditory nerve to stimulate it.

With proper training, the human brain can interpret these signals into speech and sound. Although there is no known risk in terms of hacking vulnerability detected in these devices, the potential for threats is still there.

Again, hackers can get a hold of any device that connects through wireless means to an external device. However, currently, there is no cause for concern in terms of cybersecurity for these devices.

The chair of the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery (doctors specializing in ear, throat, and nose related structures), Kenneth H. Lee, MD, Ph.D., has commented that this issue is not widespread for medical professionals under the specialty.

6. Drop Foot Implants

Drop Foot ImplantDrop foot is a chronic condition that is usually caused by strokes and is characterized by the loss of foot movement.

Affected individuals will usually suffer from fatigue from their labored walking, reducing the distance and speed they can walk.

Drop foot implants are devices that go directly on the nerves to help treat drop foot. They effectively replace the use of surface simulators that are often painful and laborious to attach.

Like most implants that send electric currents and wireless connections control Drop Foot implants. Without proper security, anyone can breach these connections and use them to harm the user.

7. Infusion Pumps

Infusion PumpsImplantable infusion implants are devices that are used to deliver fluids and medications inside the body.

This means that you can administer medicine automatically to a patient while adhering to the right schedule.

However, you should refill these implants through connected storage that’s outside the patient’s body. These devices can potentially cause life-threatening harm to its users if hacked.

Infusion pumps often use wireless technology. That’s where a medical professional sets the right amount of administered medication in a strict schedule.

Hackers can change these settings to overdose or underdose their victims. Fortunately, no known hacking attacks have shown up regarding these types of implants.

Future Steps We Need To Take For Ensuring The Security Of Our Implants

Hmm… What to do in the future to secure our implants? Here are a couple of steps you can follow:

  1. Produce implant devices with security measures in their design, with tested reverse-engineering protection and secure development life cycles.
  2. Concentrate on encrypting every sensitive, private data, especially information regarding health. Some smart medical implants contain unencrypted code, leaving them open to hacking. Authentication and encryption systems are necessary to keep implants safe from cyber-attacks.
  3. Create protocols that seek to establish if an implant device is tamper-proof. Government bodies need to create and impose rules and regulations regarding hacking security before releasing a new implant.
  4. Institute additional security measures after the initial manufacturer configuration, where users can adjust and update the security settings on their device throughout its use.

Final Thoughts

Implants are a modern technology that provides many benefits to thousands of people around the world. However, they have a few faults that need to be addressed.

More people are becoming aware of the underlying risks these devices hold. Therefore, implant providers are currently trying to fix the flaws in their systems.

As of now, there have been no known hacking attacks related to these devices. But this doesn’t mean that the potential for harm isn’t there. So, now tell me, was this guide helpful? Did you find what you came here for? Let me know everything in the comments below.

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