Brain implants act as viable hotspots for cybercriminals and hackers – signifying the evidently evolving cyber risks across the healthcare industry.
Elon Musk recently mentioned the possibility of a future where humans have brain implants to augment the brain for various reasons like playing games or music. The Neuralink computer chip brain implant promises to link the body’s muscles with a machine, to treat neurological injuries and trauma. This technology, no doubt, is intriguing, but it does raise some crucial security concerns as well.
Experts believe that bio-implants are more prone to malicious cyber-attacks, becoming a new sport for hackers. In 2016 Johnson and Johnson had warned people that the company had discovered a malicious security vulnerability in its insulin pumps, which could potentially allow cybercriminals to alter the dosages remotely.
As the human brain is like the CPU of the bodies and thoughts-action processes, scientists are anxious that attack can corrupt the brain implants, also known as brain jacking. The number of brain jacking incidents can shoot up exponentially in the upcoming years, confirm researches.
In today’s hyper-connected world, every connected end-device is completely hacked able; brain jacking poses a critical threat to people even before brain implants are yet to hit the commercial markets.
In 2018, scientists from Belgium had found that a neurostimulator, a wireless brain implant, can be easily hacked. They discovered that by utilizing remote exploitation, cyber hackers could make voltage changes resulting in sensory denial, disability, or even death. Such researches highlight how cybercriminals can weaponize a simple brain implant in unexpected ways for malicious purposes.
The precise control of the brain, along with the wireless control of stimulators, allows the hackers to attack the brain implants. The attackers could potentially induce behavioral changes like pathological gambling, hypersexuality, or even exert a limited form of control over the patient’s behavior to reinforce certain actions.
The criminal perpetrators can result in blind attacks like draining implant batteries, cessation of stimulation, inducing tissue damage, and data theft. It could also drive targeted attacks including alteration of impulse control, impairment of motor function, induction of pain, modification of emotions or affect, and modulation of the reward system. These hacks would not be easy to mitigate, as they would require the ability to monitor the victim backed by a high level of technological competence.
While the scope of brain implants seems extremely promising, a single brain jacking incident can malign the entire reputation, expectation, and the face of this technology – raising questions on its safety and usability.
This is why it is extremely vital to address this issue before such malicious chips hit the mainstream market. Organizations need to reinforce their cybersecurity measures, which include identity and access management, patching, encryption, and updating the security of brain implants to mitigate the instances of brain jacking. Clinicians and patients have to be educated on how to take specific precautions against such immensely challenging attacks.