Although this report is unpleasant and unbelievable, cyber security experts have already been involved in possible misuse of memory implants. The real threat that could steal, spy, or change human memories does not yet exist.
The technology that will allow this scenario is already in place. They are devices for deep brain irritation that allow scientists to know how memories are created in the brain, how they can be isolated, renewed or strengthened.
However, the imbalance of these implants is associated with softwars and hardwars, which are highlighted by a new research by Kaspersky Lab experts and researchers from the Functional Neurosurgery Group of the University of Oxford.
Experts in their research are based on a practical and theoretical analysis of the current vulnerabilities of implants used for deep brain stimulation. These are also referred to as implantable pulse generators (IPG) or neurostimulators.
These devices transmit electrical pulses to specific parts of the brain, contributing to the treatment of diseases such as Parkinson's disease, major tremor, depression or obsessive compulsive disorder.
The latest versions of these implants are equipped with software that allows physicians and patients to adjust their settings through regular tablets or smartphones. Implants are connected to smartphones or tablets via Bluetooth.
"Memory implants provide an interesting and realistic opportunity for many patients to improve their health.The possibility that we can change or enhance our memory with the help of the electrodes may sound like a science fiction but it is based on the real scientific foundations and the findings we already have at our disposal.Therefore, the development of memory-enhancing devices is only a matter of time, so it is extremely important that we already work with experts to understand Schumann and minimize the risks and vulnerabilities at this early stage of technology " says Laurie Pycroff, a researcher at the Oxford Functional Neurosurgery Group.
Experts have found a number of existing or potential weaknesses that could be exploited by intruders. These include, inter alia, the following areas:
- Vulnerable associated infrastructure – Experts have found a serious vulnerability and misconceptions in the Web-based device management platform commonly used by surgeons. If attackers exploit them, they will receive sensitive personal data and medical records.
- Unprotected and unencrypted data transmission between the implant, programming software and any other connected network could endanger the patients themselves or even a whole group of patients with the same type of implant associated with the same infrastructure. Any manipulation of the transferred data could lead to a change in settings that would result in physical pain, paralysis or illegal acquisition of personal sensitive data.
- When developing implants, it was preferable to protect patients from device safety. In life-threatening situations, the physician must be able to control the implants. Therefore, these devices are not protected by any password that the rescue would not have at their disposal. It also means that these implants must be equipped with software backdoors as a standard.
- Unjustified behavior of doctors – In some cases, experts have encountered sensitive patient programs where predefined passwords have remained.
Medical and technology companies should begin to work intensively with both discoveries and predicted vulnerabilities, as quantitative and qualitative growth of neurostimulation is expected in the coming decades.
A better understanding of the functioning of the human brain will lead to faster development and use of these technologies, which will become progressively attractive targets for cyber criminals.
"Although we have not seen any attack on neurostimulators so far, research has revealed a series of vulnerabilities that could create hackers in the future. It is therefore important that healthcare professionals, the cyber security industry and medical device manufacturers to work together to eliminate existing weaknesses and future threats " adds Dmitry Galoff, a member of Kaspersky Lab security team at GReAT.
Scientists estimate that in five years they will be able to record electronically the brain signals that are worth reminiscing. They even think that some of the memories will be able to be rebuilt or modified before re-entering the brain.
In ten years, commercially available implants that improve memory will be available on the market. And in about 20 years, this technology will be so advanced that it will allow extensive control of memories.