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Meet the scientist infected with computer virus

In a first of its kind act, scientist Mark Gasson, contaminated a tiny radio frequency identification chip with a virus and placed it under the skin on his hand. He uses that chip to activate his cell phone and open secure doors.

world Updated: May 29, 2010 08:45 IST

A British researcher has successfully infected himself with a computer virus and claims to be the first of its kind.

Scientist Mark Gasson, contaminated a tiny, radio frequency identification (RFID) chip with a virus and placed it under the skin on his hand. He uses that chip to activate his cell phone, as well as open secure doors, reports bbc.co.uk.

The chip which is an advanced version of ID chips used to locate animals, enables him to pass through security doors and activate his mobile phone.

Gasson, senior research fellow at the University of Reading, introduced a computer virus into an electronic chip that had been implanted into his left hand last year, so that he can study its effects.

The study revealed that in future, human implants like this could contaminate complex medical devices such as pacemakers and cochlear implants.

"With the benefits of this type of technology come risks. We may improve ourselves in some way but much like the improvements with other technologies, mobile phones for example, they become vulnerable to risks, such as security problems and computer viruses," he said.

Raising an alarm about the possible cyber attacks in future on advanced medical implants such as pacemakers, Professor Rafael Capurro of the Steinbeis Transfer-Institute of Information Ethics in Germany said: "If someone can get online access to your implant, it could be serious".

Implanted technology has become increasingly common in the United States, where medical alert bracelets can be scanned to bring up a patient's medical history.

"From an ethical point of view, the surveillance of implants can be both positive and negative. Surveillance can be part of medical care, but if someone wants to do harm to you, it could be a problem," he added.

However, Gasson believes that there will be a demand for these non-essential applications.

"If we can find a way of enhancing someone's memory or their IQ then there's a real possibility that people will choose to have this kind of invasive procedure," he said.