RFID implants linked to animal tumors

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28 Responses to “RFID implants linked to animal tumors”

  1. Cory Doctorow says:

    Uh huh. And how well will your RFID-equipped transit-pass work when it’s shielded with copper?

  2. Cory Doctorow says:

    Or car ignition key?

  3. mark says:

    how about a glove with copper mesh in it?

  4. ginneh says:

    Aiyeee, etc. The hell with humans, I’ve just fired off a letter to the manufacturer of our cat’s microchip, asking if they can cite any more recent studies that might show whether there’s an increased risk of cancer or not in cats, dogs, and horses.

    Interesting how the story seems to ramble along in the last sections about Tommy Thompson’s business ties to the company, though. What’s that about? Seems like a completely different axe is being ground there. He seems to be on the “Tommy Thompson and RFID” beat. Odd.

  5. meddeviceengineer says:

    Assuming that there was a statistical increase in cancer in these pets, I would not jump to the conclusion that the RF energy was the source of the problem.

    I would be more suspicious of the glass used for these implants. Low temperature melting point glasses
    have all kind of additives to lower the melting point.

    It has been seen in some implants that SiO2 can dissolve in the implant tissue capsule. If the glass was
    dissolving it would release any of the glass additives.

    Another point is that there are reports that the pH in the implant tissue capsule can see pH
    changes down to 1.0. That would also not be good for helping keep low melting point additives
    from entering the body.

  6. mark says:

    or for your passport problem, a coat pocket or a wallet lined with mesh.

  7. meddeviceengineer says:

    Assuming that there was a statistical increase in cancer in these pets, I would not jump to the conclusion that the RF energy was the source of the problem.

    I would be more suspicious of the glass used for these implants. Low temperature melting point glasses
    have all kind of additives to lower the melting point.

    It has been seen in some implants that SiO2 can dissolve in the implant tissue capsule. If the glass was
    dissolving it would release any of the glass additives.

    Another point is that there are reports that the pH in the implant tissue capsule can see pH
    changes down to 1.0. That would also not be good for helping keep low melting point additives
    from entering the body.

  8. mark says:

    An inductive link (notice the coiled wire in the picture) will drop off with 1/d^3 so only close (1cm) communication is possible. Its actually pretty difficult to go beyond 10cm and stay small.

    But if you’re paranoid, just jam the signal in the vicinity or use copper.

  9. tafkajp says:

    I am just an ordinary joe with a healthy bit of skepticism regarding media, I wonder if this is just more FUD to keep us scared and not paying attention to what is really important.

    taf

  10. Clifton says:

    “This is Gen1. How secure was email when it started?”

    Totally insecure and open by design. Gee, you think maybe that’s why over 90% of email volume today is spam, and why pretty much anybody can send email that looks like it came from pretty much anybody they’d like?

    If you don’t design a security model into a system at the outset, it’s exponentially harder to add it later, when it isn’t flat-out impossible. Of course, there’s also the little difference that nobody is suggesting implanting your MUA into your body.

  11. Cory Doctorow says:

    You’re conflating reading a chip with exciting it. Exciting a chip needs to take place at close proximity, but reading it after something has excited it (say, a subway turnstile at street level) can be done a much longer distances, with sensitive antennas.

    A copper-mesh glove? Really? That’s the best you can come up with? Or a copper wallet? How much copper do we end up carrying around before we say, enough, give us a system that has an off-switch, policy, and logging?

    Regarding “Chicken Little:” RTFA. No one cited — including me, in my post — says that this causes cancer in people. But read what the eminent oncologists quoted in the AP story say: with this kind of result coming from animal tests, you’d have to be nuts to get a human implant until further testing is done.

  12. mark says:

    the more security features you add, the more die area you take up, cost per part goes up, and then your company goes belly up because someone else didn’t add them, undercut you and got to market first. the best gen1 product is the one that works and gets to market first. then you build capital and do it “right”.

    The first wireless networks didn’t have great security either, but people still used them.

    as for email, it started on an internal network with only a few users. its a bit of a leap to ask them to forsee and act to prevent the spamworld we live in today. did they even have the bandwidth to spare back then?

  13. Cory Doctorow says:

    RFC422 didn’t start on an internal network with few users. It outcompeted dozens of competitors on a heterogenuous network with hundreds of thousands of users.

  14. Jay Levitt says:

    Of course, there’s also the little difference that nobody is suggesting implanting your MUA into your body.

    That’s not true. I tried reporting a bug in Thunderbird once, and that was exactly the suggestion I got…

  15. Anonymous says:

    A potential problem with sub-dermal implants is them releasing metal ions into or other chemicals into tissue with relatively poor circulation – Nickel and Tungsten ions, for instance, are carcinogenic.
    Sticking things under your skin in the form of RFID tags is inviting trouble should the capsule rupture or have an unidentified toxicity. I really don’t see sub-dermal RFID has any place for use on people.

  16. Clifton says:

    Jay: Touché!

  17. Anonymous says:

    “wat YEW THROW in days gone by, come bak ta stik ya in da i…”

    FROM OLD BOINGS:
    President Bush’s former Health and Human Services Secretary, Tommy Thompson, onetime Governor of Wisconsin, is getting an RFID implant. Why is he volunteering for the Mark of the Beast? Promotional reasons! Thompson is on the board of Applied Digital, owner of RFID vendor VeriChip. From the Philadelphia Inquirer:
    Thompson said people will eventually get beyond any queasy feelings about having a chip implanted.

    “It will prevent babies from being picked up by the wrong people in a maternity ward and make sure people in nursing homes don’t walk away,” Thompson said.

    I wonder willie yaNK IT OUT NOW?

    -control freak

  18. Anonymous says:

    “you can’t stop people from interrogating your RFID, you can’t choose who gets to interrogate your RFID, you can’t see who has polled your RFID – and you can’t even know when your RFID is being read. You wouldn’t carry normal ID that behaves this way”

    Actually, that sounds exactly like wearing a name badge. Or having a recognizable face. The only difference is that since you can’t read it without a reader, you might incorrectly perceive yourself as being comfortably anonymous, when in fact you are not.

    As for email, it started out on what was effectively a secure network, which most users could not send arbitrary packets on, and administrators of other machines were easy to track down when something went wrong. (Even more significant, other machines actually had administrators.) The threat models have changed enormously since 1982.

  19. TheCynic says:

    You cannot activate and read an ISO 14443 card from 10 meters.

    You can eavesdrop on a card interacting with a reader from a short distance away (several meters), but there are ways to guard against that and the people who makes these cards have (shockingly enough) thought of that.

    My real interest in RFID technology is just that it’s damn cool. It’s Star Trek. I want to walk into the store, pick up everything I want, walk out without going through a cash register (or a receipt checker), get in my car, start it without a key, etc, and if the danger of some hacker sneaking around with a 3 foot antenna to receive my information and charging stuff to me is no greater than it already is (via any number of ways to get my credit card info), I say lets go for it. I’m on full debit card usage now and I’d go wireless if I could.

    I hope they perfect the technology. I see no reason to declare war on it.

    I agree about the implants, though. I’m not implanting any radio transmitters under my skin until I’ve seen a great lengthy history of it not causing problems.

  20. Anonymous says:

    RFID is a load of shit. It’s a technology that’s gone nowhere and is going nowhere. Seriously, nobody is using it for anything, except for these idiots.
    And thanks to other morons, such as cory doctrow, there is a wall of FUD built around this non-existant technology. Why not just admit that it’s irrelevant and move on to something more meaty.
    All hail Cory, what a self indulgent idiot.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Please watch Aaron Russo’s ‘America:Freedom To Fascism’ for a compelling reason to avoid such technology as the RFID. There may be a time when one simply won’t have the choice to deny it.

  22. mark says:

    Cory, enough noise has been made in the 20 previous articles, including several on how to disable them, that everyone reading these posts is well aware of the security risk. i lmao about the one with the hammer. but that wasn’t the point of this article.

    it is currently cheaper to add more security to the external system than it is to add it on-chip. for your turnstyle scenario you’re concerned about a listener at a distance. Here are a few ways to defeat that attack by system design:

    1) put the reader inside a faraday cage and force the user to put their hand inside as they pass. no signal leaks out. eliminate line of sight to the reader.

    2) generate electronic noise during reading. all you need is a simple spark discharge and you won’t be able to distinguish anything because it is broad spectrum. marconi used this for a wireless transmitter in the 1890s. (nothing says don’t f around like a nice tesla coil imho but thats probably overkill)

    an off switch, a log, and policy are not going to stop a determined hacker from getting someones info, just like you probably won’t stop a determined pick-pocket from getting someones wallet.

    In anycase, lets say you have those things. you will then need a full ASIC with either a battery or flash memory to save state. Now design a system small enough to implant and cheap enough to compete in cost with your competitor who chose a passive architecture. you won’t even get that far because the venture capital money that bankrolls most semiconductor start-ups won’t pay for a losing strategy. its just not going to be viable until the market matures and too many people get burned. It’ll get there in time.

    this argument is all about money, nothing more. it is much more expensive to add area to a die because then you make fewer chips per run. that just doesn’t make sense when we haven’t exhausted low tech solutions yet.

    I’m not saying everyone should rush out and get RFID. Its obviously still in development. Just give it some time for the market to mature before you claim everyone’s out to get you. it never pays to be an early adopter.

    As for email:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E-mail#Origin
    you can pick your version of history, but it started in someone’s research lab. Any system that is mature enough to have a standard written for it is well beyond Gen1, which was my point.

  23. Tem D'Mindu says:

    Huh. An implanted RFID might just be the next Myspace, then – one you wear and walk about with. Want to avoid the irritating need to introduce yourself to someone? Get an RFID, allow them to scan you (you know how dogs sniff other dogs? kinda like that) and boom – you’ve saved yourself a couple of years of fascinating conversation.

    Imagine, once ten thousand people call you a friend, you can have your very own tumor, and people who pester you to be their friend in public (remember that recent Candorville?) will die off all the quicker.

    And remember, as with smoking, drinking, and various other things that are fairly hazardous to your health, there are only two things that matter with the latest craze: approval (or lack of disapproval) from a government agency that ought to be watching it, and influential people who swear by it.

  24. amalgraafstra says:

    My response: http://blog.amal.net/?p=48

    The short story here is, I believe it’s the anti-migration coating on “implantable” RFID tags that is causing the issue. Good thing both mine are not meant to be used as implants, and do not have this coating.

  25. Lester Reales says:

    Yeah, health risks, that’s why I’m never going to get a chip implanted in my ass.

    So this is just adding injury to insult, I guess?

  26. Anonymous says:

    Stop trying to scare people.

    RFID is only active when it is being queried. You receive much more radiation from flying a plane or using a cell phone.

    Any implanted object can trigger a foreign body response which looks a lot like cancer. Biocompatible materials minimize this but the body will still usually encase objects in a layer of tissue to seal it off. I’ve still got a splinter in my hand from middle school to prove it.

    If it is in fact cancer, it is probably from a faulty seal in the packaging, potentially exposing the body to harsh chemicals from the fabrication process.

    Next why don’t you post a story on how people with pacemakers need a knob coming out their chest to adjust it (this one goes to 11?). Yes, pacemakers use the exact same communication method as RFID, albeit more “dangerous” because it needs a battery to keep the heart going. Hey at least sony doesn’t make those, right?

    Have all the arguments you like about whether its a good idea for society to get an ID tag. Just don’t scare people to get your point across. There are still plenty of legitimate uses for the technology.

  27. mark says:

    “Cancer or no, I wouldn’t go near an RFID implant. These things don’t have off-switches. They don’t have disclosure policies. They don’t have logs, or even notifiers. That means that you can’t stop people from interrogating your RFID, you can’t choose who gets to interrogate your RFID, you can’t see who has polled your RFID — and you can’t even know when your RFID is being read.”

    Any RFID, implanted or not, can be shielded with copper, all you need is grounded mesh. The article was alarmist enough without this garbage added on. Find a hacker who can bypass the laws of physics at 10 or even 1 foot and then you’ll have something.

    This is Gen1. How secure was email when it started?

    You spend the time to cite all these stories and yet you still don’t even know how it works.

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