We’re back to look inside the crystal ball of future technologies. This is the third post of the “FuTuRology” project, a blog series where the Trend Micro Forward-Looking Threat Research (FTR) team predicts the future of popular technologies.
In the last two installments of this series, we introduced our future technology threat landscape project and started to paint a picture of how the healthcare industry might look like in a few years.
Today, the plan is to speculate over other healthcare technologies that are further out into the future and could provide opportunities for attackers and threats to healthcare users.
- 3D Scanning and Printing
This technology is quickly becoming mainstream as hardware keeps getting cheaper every year. It might get to a point where an accurate enough scanning of limbs and body anatomy should enable physicians to 3D-print personalized prosthetics, from body casts for temporary immobilization to limb replacement for a more permanent treatment. We’re talking about the possible birth of customized bionics at a massive scale.The current generation has seen the repercussion of sharing intimate pictures with others over the internet. Should 3D scanning become more available, scanned files would be as much the targets of blackmail and extortion by cybercriminals as 2D photos of today.
- Lab-on-a-Chip Drugs
More cool stuff in the future of this exciting field? How about the so-called “incredible shrinking laboratory” or lab-on-a-chip drugs? These are pills or patches that can deliver the right dosage of medicine needed automatically. This is possibly based on body parameters taken from an external sensor or cloud-based algorithmic diagnosis. It looks like the patient needs 10 milligram of this particular drug mixture? Coming right up!
Varying drug composition and dosage has its technological difficulties, I’m sure of that. Once these are overcome and we have such a device in the market, an attacker’s interception of those drug parameters might be fatal. Even delaying drug delivery could be bad enough. This can possibly be the ultimate, pay-or-die ransomware of the future. Denial of health service, anyone?
- Smart Clothing
We’re not only talking about t-shirts with fitness sensors and gimmicks – there have been attempts at those lately – but there’s a wider spectrum of things that could be coming in the future. How about exoskeletons? No, we’re not going to get adamantium bones or retractable claws anytime soon. We’re talking about devices that can help impaired bodies to move thanks to servo motors for enabling people with muscle atrophy or paralysis to perform physical activities.Sounds too out there? These have already been explored for military use to help individuals to carry more weight or absorb more impact in the battlefield. As 3D scanning and printing devices advance and become cheaper, they could accommodate more therapeutic uses for more mundane illnesses.Sport enthusiasts, especially those in extreme sports, can use smart clothing as protective gear. Now that’s something I wouldn’t mind trying myself.
- Robotic Caregiving
Speaking of robots or looking like one with an exoskeleton fitted on your body, we might also see more of robotic caregiving soon. Robots as assistants to nursing staff is not unthinkable. Medical practice equipments are becoming increasingly robotic in nature as the high productivity of using them justifies the investment. This opens the door for robotic surgery for those highly automated operations where the surgeon can give the exact instructions and the machine can execute them exactly as programmed. These are already being used in some fields but can become commonplace as the technology becomes more accurate and affordable.In theory a hacker could access the robot leading to physical harm, but in real life, that’s not likely to happen – and is more the realm of science fiction. For the amount of work involved in getting into the network, reversing the firmware, and controlling the robot, it is easier to inflict harm using traditional real-world means.This ties in nicely with the subject of IoT (Internet of Things) hacking or internet-connected device hacking. The idea is that anything with an online connection can be attacked. Again, the likelihood of being a target is directly related to the kind of device we’re talking about. I won’t go into detail but, whether the attack is likely or not, devices that involve a higher risk obviously need more defense. An internet-connected car needs more protection than an internet-connected toaster. The same goes for any medical device that is physically connected to or directly affects a human body.
- Data Visualization and Analysis
With the latest advances in this field, doctors might be able to visualize 3D scans coming from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or X-ray computed tomography (X-ray CT) scans through augmented reality superimposed on the patient’s imaging data. Visualization technology similar to the Oculus Rift can be used to enter the patient’s innards, fully understand their state, give a more accurate diagnosis, get a closer look at the data, and plan for an important surgical procedure. I don’t know if I should be happy for those doctors or scared at the prospect.
It is clear that the current state and evolution of technology will give new toys to all human fields. Healthcare is no exception. However, added risks make this industry more prone to attacks and life-threatening repercussions. Healthcare technologies need to be thought of in advance. Developers need to build in some level of security from the get-go because, in this case, even a casual or accidental screw up can be crippling, literally.