Hugh Pickens writes: "Wired reports that as neural devices become more complicated — and go wireless — some scientists say the risks of "brain hacking" should be taken seriously. "Neural devices are innovating at an extremely rapid rate and hold tremendous promise for the future," said computer security expert Tadayoshi Kohno of the University of Washington. "But if we don't start paying attention to security, we're worried that we might find ourselves in five or 10 years saying we've made a big mistake." For example, the next generation of implantable devices to control prosthetic limbs will likely include wireless controls that allow physicians to remotely adjust settings on the machine. If neural engineers don't build in security features such as encryption and access control, an attacker could hijack the device and take over the robotic limb. "As these medical devices start to become more and more complicated, it gets easier and easier for people to overlook a bug that could become a very serious risk," says Kohno. "Because the internet was not originally designed with security in mind, it is incredibly challenging — if not impossible — to retrofit the existing internet infrastructure to meet all of today's security goals" but until now, few groups have considered how neural devices might be hijacked to perform unintended actions. "The first thing is to ask ourselves is, 'Could there be a security and privacy problem?'" Kohno says. "Asking 'Is there a problem?' gets you 90 percent there, and that's the most important thing.""
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