Jun 14

Protecting medical implants from attack (MIT News, June 13, 2011):

Millions of Americans have implantable medical devices, from pacemakers and defibrillators to brain stimulators and drug pumps; worldwide, 300,000 more people receive them every year. Most such devices have wireless connections, so that doctors can monitor patients’ vital signs or revise treatment programs. But recent research has shown that this leaves the devices vulnerable to attack: In the worst-case scenario, an attacker could kill a victim by instructing an implantable device to deliver lethal doses of medication or electricity.

At the Association for Computing Machinery’s upcoming Sigcomm conference, researchers from MIT and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst (UMass) will present a new system for preventing such attacks. The system would use a second transmitter to jam unauthorized signals in an implant’s operating frequency, permitting only authorized users to communicate with it. Because the jamming transmitter, rather than the implant, would handle encryption and authentication, the system would work even with existing implants.

The researchers envision that the jamming transmitter — which they call a shield — would be small enough to wear as a necklace or a watch. A device authorized to access the implant would send encrypted instructions to the shield, which would decode and relay them.

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Dec 05

A group of military veterans are suing to get the CIA to come clean about allegedly implanting remote control devices in their brains.

It’s well known that the CIA began testing substances like LSD on soldiers beginning in the 1950s but less is known about allegations that the agency implanted electrodes in subjects.

A 2009 lawsuit (.pdf) claimed that the CIA intended to design and test septal electrodes that would enable them to control human behavior. The lawsuit said that because the government never disclosed the risks, the subjects were not able to give informed consent.

Bruce Price, one plaintiff in the lawsuit, believes that MRI scans confirm that the CIA placed a device in his brain in 1966.

At one point, Bruce was ordered to visit a building with a chain link fence that housed test animals, including dogs, cats, guinea pigs and monkeys. After reporting, Bruce was strapped across his chest, his wrists, and his ankles to a gurney. Bruce occasionally would regain consciousness for brief moments. On one such instance, he remembers being covered with a great deal of blood, and assumed it was his own, but did not really know the source. Also portions of his arms and the backs of his hand were blue. His wrist and ankles were bruised and sore at the points where he had been strapped to the gurney. Bruce believes that this is the time period during which a septal implant was placed in his brain.

DEFENDANTS placed some sort of an implant in Bruce’s right ethmoid sinus near the frontal lobe of his brain. The implant appears on CT scans as a “foreign body” of undetermined composition (perhaps plastic or some composite material) in Bruce’s right ethmoid, as confirmed in a radiology report dated June 30, 2004.

According to a 1979 book by former State Department intelligence officer John Marks, The CIA and the Search for the Manchurian Candidate, an internal 1961 memo by a top agency scientist reported that “the feasibility of remote control of activities in several species of animals has been demonstrated… Special investigations and evaluations will be conducted toward the application of selected elements of these techniques to man.”

“The CIA pursued such experiments because it was convinced the Soviets were doing the same,” The Washington Post‘s Jeff Stein noted.

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Apr 22

Surgeons have carried out the first operations in Britain using a pioneering “bionic eye” that could in future help to restore the sight of the blind.

Two successful operations to implant the artificial electronic device into the eyes of two blind patients were conducted last week at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London, it emerged today.

The device — the first of its kind in the world — incorporates a video camera and transmitter mounted on a pair of glasses.

This is linked to an artificial retina, which transmits moving images along the optic nerve to the brain, and enables a patient to discriminate rudimentary images of motion, light and dark.

The operations at Moorfields were conducted as part of an international clinical trial of the technology, known as the Argus II retinal implant, which has already proved successful in restoring rudimentary vision to blind patients with common causes of sight loss such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and retinitis pigmentosa. Continue reading »

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Apr 21

Scientists have used a laser to control a female fly’s mind and make it sing “love songs” which are only ever sung by males. The ground-breaking research, which suggests the difference between the sexes may be much subtler than thought, was conducted using radical new technology which allows scientists to turn individual brain cells on and off by shining a light on them.

The research is predominantly the work of Gero Miesenböck, an Austrian scientist formerly of Yale University who has recently moved to Oxford. Nicknamed “Lord of the Flies” by contemporaries, Professor Miesenböck specialises in controlling fly movements by genetically modifying certain brain cells to make them sensitive to light.

This is the first time an animal’s sexual behaviour has been modified by such “mind control” techniques. Continue reading »

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Mar 20

Sets record straight after misleading claims by HomeAgain and VeriChip implant manufacturers

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A new paper titled “Microchip-Induced Tumors in Laboratory Rodents and Dogs: A Review of the Literature 1990–2006” has been released today by CASPIAN. The full, 48-page paper provides a definitive review of the academic literature showing a causal link between implanted radio-frequency (RFID) microchip transponders and cancer in laboratory rodents and dogs. In addition, a brief, four-page synopsis of the full report is being made available.

Eleven articles previously published in toxicology and pathology journals are evaluated in the report. In six of the articles, between 0.8% and 10.2% of laboratory mice and rats developed malignant tumors around or adjacent to the microchips, and several researchers suggested the actual tumor rate may have been higher. Two additional articles reported microchip-related cancer in dogs.

In almost all cases, the malignant tumors, typically sarcomas, arose at the site of the implants and grew to surround and fully encase the devices. In several cases the tumors also metastasized or spread to other parts of the animals.

Public revelation of a casual link between microchipping and cancer in animals has prompted widespread public concern over the safety of implantable microchips. The story was first broken to the public in September through an article written by Associated Press Reporter Todd Lewan. Prior to the AP story, the journal articles were completely unknown outside of small academic circles.

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