It is pretty sure that most of us have the wrong impression about hackers. We are sure that we could recognize when we see one, just because we are convinced that they will look pale, have hood on their heads, and of course, have laptops.
However, there is one thing we are not wrong about – they really are skilled people.
Have you heard of biohacking? That is the process of inserting computing devices under the skin. This is one of the possible methods that hackers can use to do what they do, and in this they don’t need laptops.
A US Navy petty officer and an engineer at APA Wireless, Seth Wahle, inserted such device under his skin on his left hand. Such devices are equipped with an NFC (Near Field Communications) antenna, which can help hackers to obtain various information from Android devices, without being noticed. The malicious device sends a request to Android device to open a link. If the owner of that device accepts the request, then a hacker will get full access to his device. This is exactly what Wahle demonstrated.
The facts and theories about biohacking will be discussed at the Hack Miami conference this May. Wahle will share his knowledge and bring the attention of the public to the fact that NFC technology could be a powerful and dangerous tool, when it is in the wrong hands.
Airlines and security agencies are very stiff when it comes to security, which is ironical, because despite their efforts, implanted chips can go through any security check unnoticed. Wahle is an example of that. His chip is in his hand for some time, and no scanner reported that. As he says, only X-ray could disclose his secret.
NFC technology is increasingly finding its place in different business fields, which means that chips, especially the ones with sophisticated code, are becoming an even bigger threat.
Inserting the tiny device under the skin can cause a person to feel sick, and in case of Wahle, it involved some additional efforts in order not to violate Florida’s restrictive body modification laws. First, he had to obtain a chip meant for cattle, but after that he used this encapsulated chip for some other purposes.
Even though these chips open many doors to those with malicious intentions, they still have flaws. In order to obtain information without authorization from another device, a file created on the victim’s Android device has to be connected to the attacker’s server. This connection is lost if the Android device gets restarted or locked. However, this obstacle can be solved in different ways, and the point is that hackers will always find the way to pick up where they left off.
A professor of cybernetics at the University of Reading in the UK and the first man who got a chip under his skin, Kevin Warwick, stresses that it is very important to discuss this topic and to spread the awareness of potential danger that comes with NFC chips. As he notices, the biggest threat lies in the fact that they cannot be detected.
Wahle has intention to determine what the hackers will have to do in order to use chips for their harmful actions. This may be the key to preventing such actions. However, everyone should keep in mind that this problem is more complex than it looks, and that the hard work is ahead of us.