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Neurosecurity
July 8, 2009 8:29 PM   Subscribe

Neurosecurity: security and privacy for neural devices. "An increasing number of neural implantable devices will become available in the near future due to advances in neural engineering. This discipline holds the potential to improve many patients' lives dramatically by offering improved—and in some cases entirely new—forms of rehabilitation for conditions ranging from missing limbs to degenerative cognitive diseases. The use of standard engineering practices, medical trials, and neuroethical evaluations during the design process can create systems that are safe and that follow ethical guidelines; unfortunately, none of these disciplines currently ensure that neural devices are robust against adversarial entities trying to exploit these devices to alter, block, or eavesdrop on neural signals. The authors define 'neurosecurity'—a version of computer science security principles and methods applied to neural engineering—and discuss why neurosecurity should be a critical consideration in the design of future neural devices." [Via Mind Hacks]
posted by homunculus (22 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
Man, Machine and In-Between: Brain-implantable devices have a promising future. Key safety issues must be resolved, but the ethics of this new technology present few totally new challenges, says Jens Clausen.
posted by homunculus at 8:31 PM on July 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Presumably, they assume a tinfoil compliant standard.
posted by klangklangston at 8:47 PM on July 8, 2009


Lightspeed fits today's active lifestyle. Whether you're on the job ...or having fun. Lightspeed briefs, style and comfort for the discriminating crotch.
posted by sexyrobot at 8:59 PM on July 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


You see, this is exactly my problem with the anime series Ghost in the Shell. Everyone has their brains encased in computerized "cyber-brains." On the plus side, you can connect to other people telepathically and transfer your brain into a new body. On the other hand you're vulnerable to "ghost-hacking"--implanted memories and/or mind control.

What bugs me is that everyone seems OK with it, like it's no big deal to have your brain tampered with.

All that to say: More security for brains please.
posted by JDHarper at 9:10 PM on July 8, 2009


It's interesting that they identify tampering by the patient/ user of the implant as a potential security risk. I'd think that, in line with current laws regarding the use of alternative remedies and the right to refuse medical treatment, there could be a basis for a legal right for patients to modify the software and functions of neural devices they legally own. Maybe 15 years into the future we'll see a Linux distro for prosthetic legs?
posted by fearthehat at 9:16 PM on July 8, 2009


Whenever new technology comes out, I like to think of how it would do as a prize on b-list game shows.

"Brain Jolttm Brain Jolt Brain Jolt no Seg Fault... stop!"

*cue sad trumpet sound*

"O̴͉͙̞͔̺̪ͫͮͣ͑̇͂̾̂͒h̢̆̈ͯͩ͋͒͐̏̄̕҉̙͔̣ ̬͕̻̻̼͚̳̤͗́g̸̛͈̬͔̮̼̯̮͙ͭͬ̐͗ͫ̈͢o͑͢͏̺̻̬̦̖̣d̶̺̼̲̯̰̰̣͌ͩ͡ ͍̺͕͋͗m̷̼͖̪͈̺̲͐͊́̓̉ẏ̖̩̜͎̐͑ͤͤ̚͠ ̦̺̯̹̘̜̳͐̅̈́̓̓̒b̡̰̗̟̳̬͓ͦ͛͌̋͂ͅŗ͔̘͓̻̍͆̾̀̚͢a̸̧̦̗͙ͯ̓i̤̣͙͍̰̰̟̯͋͋̒ͯň̥̣͔͚͓̣̝͑ͩ̓͊̇̚̕ ̢̯̝̭̋̑̓̀i̒̓͊͐͏͓̱
t̺̗͙̪̍ͨ̓ͯͯͭ'̨̧̫̭͇͕̃̂̊͊ͪ͂̌ṡ̺͈̗̼̜̘̟̪̅̃̕ ̸̼̩͇͈̬̖͎ͬͧ͝s͕̲̜̹͎ͬ̓͑̑ͦͅc̶̤̼̻̐ͯ̔̀r̗̜̤̖͕̍̍̍̍ͭ͟͞ͅė̛̳̝̖͚̩̣͒ͤ̔͘a͔̦̩̱̎̊̌ͩ̉m͔̓ͩ̓͜͝ĭ̶̛̮̣͉̙̃ͤn͕͉͚̘̙ͩ͘g̭̯̘̫̦ͩͫ̿͂ͨ ̶̞̟̹̗̻̤͋ͬͭẉ̷͚̗̙͎͛ͥ̒̿̅̌̈́̓h̜͎͌ͥͬ̈̒͡ă͎̮̟̻̤̜̫̬̝͑̉̿̈́ͩ͋ͩ̄́ţ́̈̓̾҉͇̘̼̣ ̢̋͆͋ͭ"

Looks like you got a Seg Fault! Please accept these lovely parting gifts.

Verdict: not good.
posted by Lemurrhea at 9:20 PM on July 8, 2009


there could be a basis for a legal right for patients to modify the software and functions of neural devices they legally own

So, you're saying that this might herald a new age of cognitive liberty? That'd be wonderful, except the current age already isn't doing so well. We don't allow people to change their cognition with chemicals nowadays (ok, only with those that have an acknowledged commercial and taxation revenue stream), why would this be any different?
posted by nonspecialist at 9:52 PM on July 8, 2009


*cue sad trumpet sound*

Admit it. You used the zalgoifier for that. You might not have said "HE COMES", but you thought it ...
posted by nonspecialist at 9:54 PM on July 8, 2009


Just imagine...neural malware. Pop-up ads in your head.

*shudder*

I'm glad neurologists and computer scientists are thinking this stuff through before it actually happens.
posted by embrangled at 10:09 PM on July 8, 2009


Just imagine...neural malware. Pop-up ads in your head.

You mean (click) not everyone (click) is already (click) fighting these?
posted by rokusan at 10:59 PM on July 8, 2009


It would be great if the referenced "neurosecurity" movement was based solely around keeping malicious individuals or entities from actively tampering with the brains of individuals with neural implants, but I believe that it may well be just a mechanism designed to prevent patients and research subjects from modifying their own neural implants.

There have also been cases of illegal self-prescription in which patients tried to use their own implantable medical devices to cause themselves harm. Patients with neural devices may self-prescribe in an attempt to enhance their performance, increase their level of pain relief, or overstimulate the reward centers in the brain.


While a person could certainly do herself some serious harm by altering neural activity in an uninformed, poorly thought out fashion, I sure wouldn't want anyone telling me what I can and cannot do with my own brain.

People have been intentionally introducing changes in neural activity to their own brains for thousands of years. The various channels through which those changes are brought on are subjected to external manipulation and control as soon as they are recognized. Every action you take introduces some sort of change in neural state, whether it's thinking about what you are for breakfast or taking psychedelic drugs. I certainly hope that electrical modification of neural activity isn't met with the same fear and ignorance that chemical modification is. I somehow doubt I'll get my wish.

Neurosecurity is an issue that requires careful consideration for sure, but neural implants I think not so much. The kinds of invasive surgery necessary for such devices is no longer necessary for the direct and specific electrical stimulation of precise regions of the brain. We've got Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation now. I wonder how long it will be before remote TMS is a realistic possibility. Perhaps it is already.

Just imagine...neural malware. Pop-up ads in your head.

I doubt you'll have to imagine for very long. First it'll get weaponized, and then implemented to sell more crap you don't need.

As far as practical neurosecurity is concerned, I'd recommend a ferro-magnetic sort of foil for your hat. It may not stop the pulse altogether, but it'll certainly distort it enough so that you won't be doing whatever it is they want you to.

IANYTFHA I am not your tinfoil hat advisor but if the iron helm makes you die, living without it would probably be worse.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 11:04 PM on July 8, 2009


nonspecialist nails it. It's about cognitive liberty, and our record on that isn't very good. Right now you can't even put a plant in your body if you want to. You think they'll let us put in our own custom circuits? But we'll be allowed Microsoft NeuroVista 7.0, with new ThinkSecure DRM.

Neurologists and computer scientists have been thinking of this for ages. The problem isn't them, the problem is that we're currently building a culture where national security trumps personal security. And that's very bad news for our future. We can have the securest neurosystem in the world, but if we're required to hand over the keys to the NSA, what's it worth?
posted by formless at 11:13 PM on July 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


So the future analog of today's Iphone Jailbreaker would be someone who sits and drools in ecstasy as their brain implant gives them perpetual electronic orgasms until they starve to death?
posted by idiopath at 11:52 PM on July 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


It only seems likes it's no big deal to have your brain tampered with after it's been Fox News' business model for the last 10 years or so.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 4:10 AM on July 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thanks formless, I think you phrased it far more elegantly.
posted by nonspecialist at 5:18 AM on July 9, 2009


RISK: Spammers, phishers, script kiddies, marketers, and the NSA get a free hand with my memories, emotions, and volition.

REWARD: More convenient internet access.

If it's all the same, I think I'll opt out.
posted by Iridic at 7:42 AM on July 9, 2009


client IP is blocked because: Spider trap hit

????
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 8:06 AM on July 9, 2009


are you sure? the reward is more convienient internet access....
posted by sexyrobot at 8:09 AM on July 9, 2009


What bugs me is that everyone seems OK with it, like it's no big deal to have your brain tampered with.

I wouldn't say that, as the brains did have security systems. The problem is defining what a threat is when contact is this close. Your new SO, sure let'em in! Your vengeful ex-SO, not so much, even if they're they same person. What if it's a loving SO, who just happens to be a little too nosy? Things get tricky.

Keep in mind, your computer could probably be hacked, as could mine or most peoples. Yet we still use the internet and in most cases, nothing happens.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:58 AM on July 9, 2009


So the future analog of today's Iphone Jailbreaker would be someone who sits and drools in ecstasy as their brain implant gives them perpetual electronic orgasms until they starve to death?

See God is an Iron by Spider Robinson or any of Larry Niven's Known Space novels for depictions of wireheads.
posted by scalefree at 8:58 AM on July 9, 2009


As far as practical neurosecurity is concerned, I'd recommend a ferro-magnetic sort of foil for your hat. It may not stop the pulse altogether, but it'll certainly distort it enough so that you won't be doing whatever it is they want you to.

I expect the first practical attacks will be TEMPEST-style data recovery, which would work even better against external EEG headcap devices, especially now that active sensors are becoming more popular than passive ones. I hereby name such attacks "mind-sniffing". If there wasn't already a DARPA-funded project to develop such an attack (and defenses against it), there will be tomorrow.
posted by scalefree at 9:25 AM on July 9, 2009


For anyone who wants to actually do this sort of thing, I suggest you start by getting up to speed on the state of the art with NONSTOP & HIJACK.
posted by scalefree at 9:30 AM on July 9, 2009


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