Elon Musk’s ambitious venture aims to merge human brains with computers. This could open up exciting possibilities for enhancing cognitive abilities.
However, it’s essential to examine the potential risks and vulnerabilities — can Neuralink be hacked?
In this article, we’ll unravel the intriguing realm of neural hacking. We’ll also take a look into possible security consequences.
In 2016, Elon Musk founded Neuralink, a new neurotechnology company. It’s developing implantable brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) to treat neurological disorders.
Additionally, Neuralink’s BCIs are small and easy to implant. They consist of a chip implanted in the brain and a wireless transmitter, placed on the scalp.
Moreover, Neuralink already had its first successes with animals.
In 2019, the company showcased a pig named Gertrude who had an implant. It allowed Gertrude to control a computer cursor with her mind.
However, the tech is still in its early stages of development. The company is currently working on clinical trials and hopes to begin human trials this year.
Neuralink’s BCI uses a thin, flexible strip of electrodes to record and stimulate brain activity. They connect to a wireless transmitter on the scalp. The transmitter then sends the data to a computer that can control devices or provide user feedback.
Furthermore, the electrodes are made of platinum-iridium. This material can withstand the harsh environment of the brain.
The electrodes form a grid pattern, spaced about 1 millimeter apart. This allows Neuralink to record brain activity with high precision.
The wireless transmitter in Neuralink is about the size of a USB drive. Additionally, the transmitter uses batteries. It can hold up to 24 hours on a single charge.
Yes, it’s theoretically possible Neuralink could be hacked. After all, any device that connects to a network is vulnerable.
In fact, it could have even graver consequences because it serves as an interface with the human brain.
Cybercriminals could potentially hack Neuralink in a few ways. One is through the Bluetooth connection the device uses to communicate with a computer or smartphone. If a hacker gained access to this connection, they could send malicious commands.
Another way is via exploiting vulnerabilities of any related software.
If successful, hacking could have serious consequences. Cybercriminals may cause physical harm to the user.
So, could a hacker use Neuralink to control the user’s thoughts or actions?
Of course, this tech is still in its infancy. It’s not clear how vulnerable it really is to attacks.
So, let’s see what the experts say about the dangers of hacking.
Security Expert, Co-founder & CEO of Riscosity
Neuralink uses existing Bluetooth technology, and possibly chipsets made by existing manufacturers. This means that vulnerabilities in the existing hardware would be directly ported to the HCI hardware. A low-effort, high-impact hacking incident would actually deal with the applications that are actually talking to the HCI interface over Bluetooth.
Application vulnerabilities especially the kind dealing with software supply chain issues would be an amazingly effective threat vector. Consider the following simple scenario. Neuralink’s HCI applications are only going to write 50-60% of the computer code used to develop applications on top of the HCI interface.
The remainder of the computer code will be “absorbed” from other third parties (like Broadcom SDKs, Qualcomm SDKs, etc.) and 3rd party Open Source Software. These pieces of software not written directly by the Neuralink team – pose a tremendous threat.
You don’t really know what is in them. On the surface, a piece of code might help you move the cursor from left to right on a screen based on HCI inputs but surreptitiously be sending all your brain signals to a third party. This is a typical Third Party Data Observability (TPDO) problem. One way to clamp down on this TPDO issue is to constantly and accurately monitor and review all source code for outbound connections being made by hidden software.
Cybersecurity expert & Director at Cyphere
As a cybersecurity expert, I understand the concerns about the potential risks of hacking Neuralink.
While there is no such thing as a completely foolproof system, Neuralink has implemented multiple layers of security to protect against potential hacking attempts.
For example, Neuralink’s implant devices communicate through encrypted channels, making it difficult for hackers to intercept and manipulate the data.
Additionally, the device requires physical access for installation, making it more difficult for hackers to remotely exploit vulnerabilities. However, it is important to remember that any technology can be hacked given enough time and resources.
A successful hack could potentially allow a malicious actor to access and manipulate a user’s thoughts, brain activity, and even physical movements. This could lead to serious consequences, such as loss of privacy or even physical harm.
While Neuralink has taken proactive measures to prevent hacking attempts, it is important for users to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to the company in a timely manner.
Lecturer, Cybersecurity at Yale Law School & Founder, Privacy Lab at Yale ISP
Even if we put aside the ethical issues Neuralink introduces in regard to human as well as animal welfare, the details of the Neuralink system’s communication protocols and security measures are not public.
That should be enough to scare anyone away from a Neuralink implant because security by obscurity is a disaster waiting to happen.
The real-world implementation and security measures employed by Neuralink will play a significant role in determining the feasibility and impact of side-channel attacks.
Modifying electrical activity in the brain or injecting malicious commands into the implant would obviously have serious physical and cognitive implications.
A side-channel attack on Neuralink could intercept wireless signals. Neuralink relies on wireless communication to the brain implant.
If an attacker gains unauthorized access to that communication channel, they could potentially eavesdrop on the data being transmitted or even manipulate it.
If someone sets up a rogue device that pretends to be legitimate, all sorts of havoc could occur. Such an attack could intercept signals and exploit weaknesses in the encryption or authentication mechanisms used by Neuralink.
Because we know so little about the implementation and it hasn’t been thoroughly tested by security researchers, it’s safe to say Neuralink has exploits just waiting to be triggered.
The fusion of human brains with advanced computing systems demands careful attention to security.
So, can Neuralink be hacked? In theory, yes. Criminals can target it using the Bluetooth connection. They can also exploit software weaknesses.
Although promising, this tech will require continuous monitoring. Only then will we unlock its full potential.
Neuralink is currently in development, so it’s still unsafe. Some of the risks include physical damage, such as bleeding, infection, and tissue damage. Moreover, hackers could introduce security problems.
In theory, hackers could target brain chips, just like any other technology connected to external networks. Still, it’s difficult to predict the future of such attempts with certainty.
Yes, you can remove Neuralink. However, there’s a risk of side effects and complications.
There are many potential problems with Neuralink spanning human safety, ethical concerns, privacy, security, and costs.