“I Installed My First Implant in July 2011,” Dutch Biohacker Patrick Paumen
What purposes do biohackers pursue when they insert implants in the body? Can third parties use the chip implanted under the skin? How popular will implants be in the future? Well-known Dutch biohacker Patrick Paumen highlighted these issues in the interview for Biohacking Conference Kyiv 2020.
Patrick has been dealing with chip implantation for almost 10 years. He already has 23 under-skin implants that allow him to lift light metallic things, monitor body temperature, unlock doors, unblock portable devices, and make electronic payments.
You can read more about how the biohacker implanted his first chip and the features of his implants further in the article.
Interviewer: Biohacking Conference Kyiv (ВСК)
Respondent: Patrick Paumen (P.P.)
ВСК: What inspired you to embed implants? What was the implantation procedure?
P.P.: Since 2001, I have been visiting international hacker/security/technology conferences with talks and workshops about topics such as lock picking, privacy, security, technology, etc.
In December 2010, I attended the 27C3 (27th Chaos Communication Congress) conference in Berlin, Germany. At this conference, there was a talk by Lepht Anonym called “Cybernetics for the masses”. Lepht talked about how implants add new senses and functions to your body. This talk inspired me to start biohacking my own body.
In July 2011, I installed my first implant – a neodymium magnet with bio-proof coating. I ordered a stack of disc-shaped neodymium magnets, 2 mm in diameter and 1 mm in height. Then I ordered packs of Sugru to add as bio-proof coating to a magnet. You cannot have a raw magnet under your skin, it is toxic and the body would reject the magnet.
After adding a layer of Sugru to the magnet as coating, I visited a local piercing/tattoo shop where I also had my first tattoo done. The piercing/tattoo shop unfortunately did not want to implant the magnet in my fingertip, without providing a reason why. I assume they did not want to do it because maybe they did not have experience with it or maybe because it was not a product they sold. So instead, I attempted to install it myself. My attempt to install it in my fingertip failed, because I didn’t have the proper tools or materials to perform the procedure myself. I did not have local anesthetic, a scalpel or hollow piercing needle.
Instead, I implanted the magnet in the back of my hand with disinfecting materials and a band-aid from a first aid kit and a pocketknife. It is not recommended to do it this way, you should at least have a spotter to watch you and make sure you do not pass out.
ВСК: What ensures the safety of an implant? Can ill-minded people use the chip without your consent?
P.P.: The main manufacturer of biohacking implants, Dangerous Things, has performed different safety tests on the implants. Glass contamination testing, vacuum test to 0.42 mBar, liquid nitrogen test, EMP (electromagnetic pulse) machine test, sterilization testing, oven test, crush test, and MRI test.
All of my implants are passive devices, this means they do not contain a battery and do not transmit any data until they are near a compatible RFID reader. Most RFID tag implants are very small. The copper antenna coil inside an RFID tag implant is much smaller than the antenna coil inside the average ISO (credit) card sized RFID cards, wristband or key fob. The reading distance is limited by the magnetic coupling between the passive tag and the reader. Often you have to actually touch the skin to get close enough to power and read the implant.
My implants are completely subdermal, most of my implants are invisible unless I point them out or show them on an x-ray photo. Criminals can’t use my implants without my knowledge unless they know that I have implants, which implant is where, what I use the implant for, which radio frequency the implant operates on, which communication protocol the implant uses, sometimes even the sweetspot (location and orientation) to hold a reader with regards to the implant.
The newest generation implants use the same crypto chip as a credit card or smartcard, they require authentication before you can use them. It is not possible to clone these advanced crypto implants.
ВСК: Have you encountered cases when the chip did not work in your life?
P.P.: So far, all of my implants are working, and none is defective. If a chip implant did not work, a bad magnetic coupling between the reader and the tag caused it.
Many RFID readers have antenna coils that are designed to read card sized RFID tags. Some of those readers require finding the sweetspot to read a small implant.
ВСК: Now you have 23 implants under the skin. Is it possible to unite all the functions they provide in one device?
P.P.: Currently, I have 8 magnet implants, 12 RFID implants with a chip and 3 RFID implants with a LED.
It is not possible to unite all of the functions in one device, because a magnet implant is used for lifting objects, sensing magnetic, and electromagnetic fields, while RFID chip implants are mostly used for unlocking devices or sharing data.
Manufacturers of RFID devices use different frequencies, different communication protocols, and different features. Recently Dangerous Things has released an implant, which contains two RFID technologies (low and high frequency coils and two different chips) in one implant, but it does not contain a temperature sensor, LED or support in-vivo cryptography like other implants offer.
One of my implants is specifically for contactless payments, which is not possible with the other implants because they are not EMV compatible.
ВСК: Do magnets have expiration dates? Do you have to replace them?
P.P.: As long as the coating remains intact of a magnet implant, there is no need to remove or replace them.
ВСК: What are your forecasts concerning the use of chips in the future? How popular will this practice become in everyday life?
P.P.: I think that implants will be much more common in the future, like piercings and tattoos have become more common in the past decades.
The advantage of my implants is that they are not for cosmetic reasons and do not change my appearance like piercings or tattoos. My implants augment my body to give new senses or to interact with technology.
I hope that in the future, implants will be open hardware and open source software so that hackers, privacy and security experts can easily check for vulnerabilities, privacy concerns and inform the manufacturer of implants so the problems can be fixed.
ВСК: How important is it for biohackers to have full control of the implants implanted into the body?
P.P.: It is important that if somebody gets an implant, they are in complete control of the implant. If somebody wants to modify their implant, they should be allowed to do so, with no need to worry about voiding warranty.
I know a biohacker who is deaf and has cochlear implants, which give him the ability to hear. He also wants to hear more frequencies (for example bats at night), but the manufacturer told him that he would void the warranty if he hacks the implant.
It is important that people should always have a choice if they want to modify their body or not. We should always have a choice if we want an access card/key fob or implant.
Governments and private companies cannot force people to get implants because we have bodily integrity, protected by national and international privacy laws.
There will always be people that do not want to modify their body and we should respect that, and they should respect us, biohackers.
More information about modern methods intended to upgrade body will be presented at Biohacking Conference Kyiv 2020 held on November 11.