Cyborgism – A Look into the Security Issues of the Future

For me, a cyborg is someone who feels their technology is a part of their biology, they have integrated a device or devices into their body and this has added something to their senses or capability above and beyond what’s currently normal for humans. says Neil Harbisson, Cyborg activist and president of Cyborg Foundation.

Cyborgs – A part Human and part Machine

A human with an artificial cardiac pacemaker would be considered a cyborg, since these devices perform signal processing, measure voltage potentials in the body and can deliver electrical stimuli, via this synthetic feedback mechanism to keep that individual alive. Implants, especially cochlear implants that combine mechanical modification with any kind of feedback response are also cyborg enhancements.

Neil Harbisson was born with a rare form of color blindness called achromatopsia, which means he could only see in the grayscale with no ability to perceive color. After some experimentation with antennae, Harbisson had his colour-detecting antenna surgically implanted into his skull. During 2013, he had Bluetooth added to the device which was originally embedded in 2004. This allows his antenna to receive information from his mobile phone, so people across the world can send him images.

The implant was a success and he has been able to “hear” color frequencies in his head and has memorized the spectrum in order to tell colors apart.

“My antenna allows me to detect not only color visible to the human eye, but also beyond,” he adds. “I can sense infrared and ultraviolet light from my camera, but also from cameras owned by friends across the world who send information to it. In future I will receive signals from satellites and hear light from objects in space. My mission is to expand my sensory perception and communicate this to my audience through multimedia demonstrations.”  In 2012 at TEDGlobal, Harbisson explained that he did not feel like a cyborg when he started to use the eyeborg, he started to feel like a cyborg when he noticed that the software and his brain had united and given him an extra sense.

Futurist predicts, we will be able to “upload” our very own thoughts onto servers on the cloud by 2030. An expert, cited by “Scientific American”, takes the pretty much widespread cyborgism route: “Parkinson’s patients and the deaf already can have computerized devices implanted. By the 2030s this will become ubiquitous. Computers will be small enough to enter our brains noninvasively through our capillaries,” said Ray Kurzweil, futurist and director of engineering at Google.

Future and Technological Singularity

The combination of increased processing speeds, battery power alongside 4G and the development of new materials are fundamentally changing the means in which we interact with technology. Once the dream of science fiction, the idea of creating ‘Artificial Intelligence’ is gradually becoming a reality.

Singularity can be defined as the technological progress which will eventually effect in increase of artificial intelligence exceeding the human intellectual capacity and control.

“Singularity is a break in human evolution that will be caused by the staggering speed of technological evolution.” says James Martin, world-renowned futurist, computer scientist, author, lecturer and Oxford University benefactor.

Drastic increase in Cyber Security attack surface in the future

With the increase in IoT enabled devices and its usage, the attack surface area is also increasing rapidly. Organization’s introducing these devices are concentrating more on the functional aspects of the system and are to some extend neglecting the security area. This mentality will remain for a while until a noticeable IoT breach occurs.

On the other hand, IoT devices is also opening doors for bringing in new security authentication mechanism in the future. “The time is now right for biometric technology to emerge as a secure solution for mobile applications that require high levels of security.”  Jean-Noel Georges, Frost & Sullivan Global Program Director, ICT in Financial Services. Wearable technology is also increasing rapidly in fitness and health industries.

Privacy concerns has been raised since the advent of the internet. With cyborgism, it is going to only make privacy concern more worse. Since, previously the concern was that the data about an individual was leaked or collected without the knowledge of the respective person. This might provide hints to hackers to study the individual’s financial details and steal money. With the increase in smart implants, this concern is shifted towards physical harm rather than hacking related issues.

Security concerns with smart implants can be related to infection with computer viruses like infected RFID chips or cloning of RFID chips. Connecting our (the human) bodies to the web (internet) should possible pose a grave security concern. Security firm Kaspersky Labs has already teamed up with BioNyfiken to uncover potential risks involved in the biohacking. Senior Security Researcher at Kaspersky, Patrick Mylund Nielsen says “The trend with Internet of Things has been to create products and get them to market fast. Security is often an afterthought. What happens when our private keys are under our skin? Can somebody become a virtual copy of me by shaking my hand?”

Organizations contributing for the advancement of technology like IoT, wearable device technology and smart body implants must consider security at a high priority. The more we concentrate on hardening or securing application and devices of the future, the less probability for an occurrence cyber event. This also should be coupled with security awareness program that should reach everyone involved. This may include people who create the technology and people who consume it everyday – YOU.

Top/Featured Image: By Glogger (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0] via Wikimedia Commons

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