Malicious code written into DNA infects the computer that reads it

TechCrunch | 8/10/2017 | Devin Coldewey
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In a mind-boggling world first, a team of biologists and security researchers have successfully infected a computer with a malicious program coded into a strand of DNA.

It sounds like science fiction, but I assure you it’s quite real — although you probably don’t have to worry about this particular threat vector any time soon. That said, the possibilities suggested by this project are equally fascinating and terrifying to contemplate.

Team - University - Washington - Headlines - Security

The multidisciplinary team at the University of Washington isn’t out to make outlandish headlines, although it’s certainly done that. They were concerned that the security infrastructure around DNA transcription and analysis was inadequate, having found elementary vulnerabilities in open-source software used in labs around the world. Given the nature of the data usually being handled, this could be a serious problem going forward.

Sure, they could demonstrate the weakness of the systems with the usual malware and remote access tools. That’s how any competent attacker would come at such a system. But the discriminating security professional prefers to stay ahead of the game.

Things - Computer - Security - Community - Situation

“One of the big things we try to do in the computer security community is to avoid a situation where we say, ‘Oh shoot, adversaries are here and knocking on our door and we’re not prepared,'” said professor Tadayoshi Kohno, who has a history of pursuing unusual attack vectors for embedded and niche electronics like pacemakers.

“As these molecular and electronic worlds get closer together, there are potential interactions that we haven’t really had to contemplate before,” added Luis Ceze, one co-author of the study.

Plenty - Writers - Past - Tools - CRISPR

Accordingly, they made the leap plenty of sci-fi writers have made in the past, and that we are currently exploring via tools like CRISPR: DNA is basically life’s file system. The analysis programs are reading a DNA strand’s bases (cytosine, thymine etc, the A, T, G, and C...
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