Biohacker Seth Wahle, a former petty officer in the US Navy and now an engineer at APA Wireless, is testing the limits of cybersecurity by using a chip embedded in his hand.
Along with collaborator Rod Soto, Wahle has demonstrated that with his chip implant, he can hack into a phone by simply touching it -- stealing photos, passwords and more.
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Wahle implanted an RFID chip, which holds small amounts of data and can communicate with devices nearby, into his hand. Since the chip includes a Near Field Communications (NFC) antenna, it generates a radio frequency that can communicate with other devices that are NFC-enabled, such as cellphones.
When Wahle holds a phone, his chip sends a signal to the device and a pop-up appears prompting the phone's owner to open a link. If the user taps yes, the link installs a malicious file, connecting the phone to a remote server than can be accessed by others.
With more research, Wahle believes he should be able to perform a similar feat without having a pop-up alert the user of any of his intentions. He thinks he could make the pop-up look like, say, a Candy Crush notification, which would be more likely to go unrecognized.
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Wahle believes his findings provide a glimpse into cybersecurity threats of the future, suggesting that hidden methods can be used to hack phones and laptops without users even realizing it.
These findings are also significant because phones aren't the only things that use NFC to communicate. Since credit card payment systems, mobile payments like Apple Pay and Google Wallet and even medical devices also use NFC, this exposes a loophole that could be targeted in the future.