Mark Gasson had caught a bad bug. Though he was not in pain, he was keenly aware of the infection raging in his left hand, knowing he could put others at risk by simply coming too close. But his virus wasn’t a risk for humans. Gasson, a cybernetics scientist at the University of Reading, was walking around with an implanted microchip he had intentionally infected with a computer virus. If he got too close to a computer, he could in principle infect that machine.
Although this possibility may sound like a foray into science fiction, information security experts believe the blurring of the boundaries between computer and biological viruses is not so far-fetched—and could have very real consequences.
I read stories like this to get ideas for my novels. I also read them to get a sense of what’s happening in this brave new century. What threats are we creating? But I’m not freaking out. And I certainly don’t think, as one prominent blog put it today, that this news means humans can catch a computer virus. Nuh-unh. That’s either deliberately or obtusely misreading the article. But it does mean that people with cardiac pacemakers or cochlear implants “could be threatened when they connect to an external system. Once infected, the implant can then spread the virus to other systems.”
Thriller writers: take note.