The headline: “First human ‘infected with computer virus‘”.
The truth: oh lordy, it’s Captain Cyborg’s protege.
Captain Cyborg is Kevin Warwick, loopy professor of cybernetics at Reading University, who has been inserting bits of electronics under his skin for some years and making extravagant claims about the implications. He is most famous for taking advantage of the Soham murders by offering to implant an electronic tracking device into an eleven year old girl, (an offer that I think should earn him a place on some register or other).
Gasson is Warwick’s sidekick, although it seems the major lesson he’s learnt from the Cap’n is how to be a media whore.
So what about these claims he’s infected himself with a computer virus? I had a few concerned friends forward me the URL, seeking comment. Well, if I put a pregnant rabbit inside my PC case and then issued a press-release: “Computer Gives Birth To Bunnies!” – that would be about the equivalent to Gasson’s little achievement. (Full disclosure: that analogy is not mine, but it is far too superb not to share.)
Gasson, in short, has repeated a fairly dull RFID experiment. But before doing so, he wedged the RFID under his skin. He could equally have poked it into a sausage, or up his arse, and the results of the experiment would have been just as meaningful, but he’d not have got the press exposure because people would have been laughing at him instead, which would be the right response.
Of course, underneath the trashy sensationalist journalism and craven publicity-seeking there is a serious implication to this experiment: implants (pacemakers and such) that are integrated into the human body may become vulnerable to attack using technologies not dissimilar to RFID, and it is incumbent on the manufacturers to bear this in mind.
But the key word there is “integrated”. You achieve the status of cyborg when the technology has been actually integrated with your body, not merely inserted into it. You do not become a cyborg by placing electronics under your skin, even if you then scurry off outside looking for Sarah Connor. Although the whole concept of humans being infected by computer viruses is specious at best, you’d assume that this kind of integration would be a prerequisite.
So, in response to the concerned e-mails I received: you do not need to install Norton Anti-Virus on yourself. Not just yet.