Will security microchip implants become standard operating procedure at security conscious companies in the future? Three Square Market, a technology firm located in Wisconsin, thinks the answer is yes.
Three Square Market hit the news when it started to offer security microchips to employees in 2017. Comparable to a grain of rice in size, the implants use RFID (radio frequency identification) to quickly identify employees and grant access. According to the BBC, approximately 50 employees had signed up for the device as of last year. Costing less than $500, the devices do not include GPS or other tracking capabilities. Technically, the security microchips are similar to credit card chips. Both contain a small amount of information to identify the user uniquely. Both offer a way to increase security while keeping convenience in mind. The Three Square Market implant is placed in the hand for ease of access.
With all the security software and tools we have, why ask employees to take on security microchips? There are a few reasons.
Reason 1: The need to keep up in the cybersecurity arms race
Hacking and cybercrime become proliferate every year. Ten or twenty years ago, you might have needed a small army of experts to carry out an attack. Today? If you know your way around the dark web, you can rent denial of service attack services for a fee. Dark Web News reports: “Although some factors come into play when determining the actual cost of a specific DDoS attack, the average price of a DDoS attack is $25 per hour.” For the price of an iPhone X, you could carry out DDoS attacks for days. Hackers with a do-it-yourself philosophy can download tools that make it easy to launch attacks.
Faced with falling hacking costs, organizations need to boost their security systems and practices. A multi-factor authentication approach using a PIN code and a security microchip is one way to stay a step ahead of hackers. A determined hacker might still decide to get an implant and attack a secure facility in person. However, only a tiny fraction of hackers are likely to pursue such attacks as the risk of being caught is much higher in person.
Reason 2: Security microchips are getting cheaper
If you are a large company, how much money do you spend on employee compensation, benefits, and support systems? Equipping a cubicle with a computer, phone and software quickly adds up to thousands of dollars. When you see security microchips in that light, spending a few hundred dollars to improve security starts to look like an easy win.
Reason 3: Improve management oversight
The rise of remote work and work from home arrangements is fantastic for employees. For managers, success in this environment is more difficult. The ability to monitor employees through a security microchip might be helpful in some cases. However, demanding implants pushes ethical boundaries. As a society, we’re already struggling with AI’s ethical responsibility. As of right now, this benefit is somewhat theoretical with one exception.
IT security managers need highly accurate records and security systems to do their work. By protecting all of a company’s critical systems with security microchips, it is easy to track access. You no longer have to worry about password resets or sharing passwords. Security microchips cannot easily be extracted, and they are practically impossible to lose, unlike keys and ID cards.
If security microchips are seen as a Big Brother device, they are unlikely to succeed. In our view, two other conditions are required for this technology to take off. The end user needs to see significant personal benefits compared to existing security technology. Consider a different technology – neural sensors for brain/body interface. These sensors will let you control technology with your mind – a potentially life changing advancement for the disabled. For security microchips to take off, consumers will need to see significant benefits.
Further, users will want strong protections from government and others governing these devices. Assuming those problems are solved, what other information could you store inside yourself via a microchip in the future?
Health and financial information will rank highly on the list of data to include on a microchip. Some people carry unique tags on necklaces or bracelets that explain allergies or other unusual health needs. If a paramedic, nurse or doctor is trying to help an unconscious person, that information is critical. With a microchip, you can include much more data, and that may lead to improved health outcomes.
Instead of carrying around half a dozen debit and credit cards, a security microchip could take all of your payment card data. Of course, you would still want to enter a PIN code, thumbprint or some other secondary authentication to validate purchases.
For security microchips to achieve mainstream acceptance, two conditions will need to be met. First, users will need to see direct personal benefits — keeping their employers safe from hacking is not enough. Second, users need assurance that their microchips and personal information are protected from misuse, improper disclosure, and hacking. In the meantime, we expect security microchips to remain a niche product.