Security researcher slams human malware 'infection'


University of Reading research in which a scientist claimed to have become the first person to be infected by a computer virus has been labeled as "nonsense" by a security expert.

Dr Mark Gasson, from the university's School of Systems Engineering, had inserted a contaminated computer chip into his hand to explore "human enhancements" and possible risks of implantable devices.

From an IT security standpoint, the study's suggestion that there are potential threats with such implants is unfounded, according to Sophos senior technology consultant Graham Cluley.

He told IT PRO that the university's department has been "very clever at getting media attention."

Humans need not be worried about the new research, Cluley said, adding that the study is simply "scaremongering".

As for why the university carried out the tests, Cluley suggested that the institution may have simply been after publicity. "Maybe the best thing for all of us to do would be to ignore them," he said.

Dr Gasson had a high-end Radio Frequency Identification chip implanted into his left hand last year and once infected the chip corrupted the main system communicating with it.

In a statement, Dr Gasson said people need to be wary of the new threats that will come with implants.

"By infecting my own implant with a computer virus we have demonstrated how advanced these technologies are becoming and also had a glimpse at the problems of tomorrow," he added.

In a blog post, Cluley said that the chances of people or animals becoming infected with a computer virus are extremely remote.

"Frankly, I've got more chance of being flattened by a falling grand piano than I have of getting my dog virus-infected next time I take him to the vets," he added.

Tom Brewster

Tom Brewster is currently an associate editor at Forbes and an award-winning journalist who covers cyber security, surveillance, and privacy. Starting his career at ITPro as a staff writer and working up to a senior staff writer role, Tom has been covering the tech industry for more than ten years and is considered one of the leading journalists in his specialism.

He is a proud alum of the University of Sheffield where he secured an undergraduate degree in English Literature before undertaking a certification from General Assembly in web development.