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July 11, 2009

Brain hacking

Scientists anticipate security problems for neural devices and the possibility of hackers trying to take over your brain.

Some might question why anyone would want to hack into someone else's brain, but the researchers say there's a precedent for using computers to cause neurological harm. In November 2007 and March 2008, malicious programmers vandalized epilepsy support Web sites by putting up flashing animations, which caused seizures in some photo-sensitive patients.

"It happened on two separate occasions," said computer science graduate student Tamara Denning, a co-author on the paper. "It's evidence that people will be malicious and try to compromise peoples' health using computers, especially if neural devices become more widespread."

In some cases, patients might even want to hack into their own neural device. Unlike devices to control prosthetic limbs, which still use wires, many deep brain stimulators already rely on wireless signals. Hacking into these devices could enable patients to "self-prescribe" elevated moods or pain relief by increasing the activity of the brain's reward centers.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at July 11, 2009 08:07 AM