The University of Reading’s latest attempt to flog flaky ‘research’ into the public domain has, predictably perhaps, backfired. Dr Mark Gasson (pictured, left), from Reading’s School of Systems Engineering, home to Reading’s notorious Cybernetic Intelligence Research Group, is claiming to be ‘the first person in the world to be infected by a computer virus’: a RFID chip which had been inserted into his hand as part of ‘research into human enhancement and the potential risks of implantable devices’ of the kind placed in pets was deliberately infected by malware; but not the kind of malware that is commonly found in the Net, but a special variant that Gasson’s project team cooked-up for purposes of this ‘experiment’.
The claim was sufficient to secure a slot on the ‘prestigious’ BBC Radio 4’s The Today Program; perhaps ‘secure’ is not quite the right word, for the The Today Program itself is somewhat vulnerable to certain strains of pseudoscience.
The Gasson story has attracted widespread derision from the global IT security industry – well, from Sophos’ esteemed senior technologist and blogger Graham Cluley (pictured above, right) at least, who castigates the attention-seeking academic for ‘scaremongering’ and positing a ‘non-threat’.
“Frankly, I’ve got more chance of being flattened by a falling grand piano than I have of getting my dog virus-infected next time I take him to the vets,” Cluley sniffs.