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Will computer viruses be able to infect humans in the future?

But, wait! With the boundaries of technology advancing, this can change dramatically.

During the last couple of years within the medial industry, many micro computing devices were invented. Simple pacemakers for the heart have transformed into small implanted electromechanical computer devices that are updated and programmed via wireless interfaces. Already in 2012 at the RSA Security Conference presenters were able to hack an insulin pump via a wireless connection and forced it to administer a lethal dose of insulin. Parkinson therapy already uses brain pacemaker implants that react on brainwaves and turn off or fire neurons whenever needed.

The problem is, it’s much harder to ensure a device is unhackable than it is to find a way to hack it. To protect a device, you have to find all possible ways it can be hacked. This is quite a challenge and I’m unsure if it can ever be done. On the other hand, if you want to hack a device, you only have to find one single way to do it. This sounds much more doable, right? Additionally, because we are talking about hardware, the implanted device can be tricky to update to the newest technology, making it vulnerable to hackers who have the advantage of new technology. Maybe tomorrow a new artificial intelligence will help the hackers to hack a device, or a quantum computer helps to break an encryption. The situation is a lot like a bank robber stealing an exact copy of the safe they want to break into. Once the criminal has the safe, they can use every tool at hand to open it, while the manufacturers of the safe can do nothing to improve the safe’s security..

A look into the future: Nanobots

If you think this is scary, then let’s take a look even further into the future. In the area of medicine there is a clear focus on nanobots becoming one of the main tools to cure human diseases. These tiny little robots swim through the body to reach the intended site and will then inject drugs or even reprogram cells by changing DNA sequences.  If you think this is all science fiction that will never happen, have a look at the experiments going on at Harvard University. In 2014, Havard scientists injected nanobots into cockroaches that were programmed to react to specific proteins within the cockroaches. Harvard plan to have first experiments running on humans in 2019.

Humans will cure common bio-viruses by using nanobots. It’s just a matter of time. No more Ebola. No more HIV. Just a software update and your tiny little helpers will attack every new virus that infects you.

What happens if your nanobots are hacked by criminals and who turn your nanobots against you? We will have computer viruses replacing our common bio-viruses. And this will be far more dangerous than any virus that nature comes up with. An armada of small robots that are directly connected to the cloud could threaten your life, hold your body hostage or take control of your behavior by manipulating your brain.

Cryptolocker malware, which is on the rise, encrypts a computer and requests that the owner send over an amount of money (usually Bitcoins), to regain access to the computer. Imagine cryptolockers on nanobots, asking you to pay 1 million Bitcoins in 24 hours or you will be killed. That’s a totally new dimension of crime.

So, what can we do to protect ourselves from this totally new type of threat?

First of all, we have to set up a completely new level of IT security. We have to find new standards as well as creating very hardened software. This issue is one of the grandest challenges for all security software companies, including Avira, that will need to tackled, and I think we can only do so if all experts in the industry work together.

After Germany introduced the RFID chip in its IDs, many people bought protective covers in which to put their ID. This was driven by the fear that criminals would steal their personal information just by walking by them with a scanner. If the software security industry fails to find a solution, maybe in the future we will have to wear a protective suit that shields us from attacks against our nanobots.

So what do you think? Will you ever be infected by a computer virus in your life? How about your kids?

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Manager CoreAV Development @ Avira