This Guy Got a Cattle Tracking Implant in His Hand to Hack a Phone

By Kate Knibbs on at

A security expert had a computer chip usually used to track cows implanted in his hand by an “unlicensed amateur” so he could show how hackers could use tools hidden underneath their skin to hijack devices.

Seth Wahle paid someone $40 (£25) to implant an off-the-shelf chip normally used for agricultural cattle tracking with an NFC antenna into his hand so he could demonstrate how easy it is to get through airport security with a tiny hacking tool lodged in your skin, and to draw attention to the possibility that criminals could use implants to hack Android phones.

He’ll present the attack at the Hack Miami conference in May with security consultant Rod Soto, according to Forbes. They’ve emphasised how you’d basically have to be put through the airport luggage X-ray machine for anyone to notice the chip.

“This implanted chip can bypass pretty much any security measures that are in place at this point and we will show proof of that,” says Soto.

The demo attack uses a known security flaw, so it wouldn’t pose a threat in real life. But that doesn’t mean the general idea of criminals using implants to remotely access phones and networks is off-limits.

More sophisticated code on the chip would increase the potential for more serious damage, especially if a zero-day (an unpatched, previously-unknown vulnerability) was put into action via a chip, warns Soto.

Not exactly the most pain-free route to demonstrate a hypothesis, but you’ve got to admire his commitment.

[Forbes]

Image of Seth Wahle’s hand via Forbes