The ultimate geek-out: DNA used to hack lab system

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The ultimate geek-out: DNA used to hack lab systemEvery aspect of daily life seems to be coming under threat from cyber attack – and now it appears that even DNA is not immune. The double helix has been a source of much progress in the bio-medical field – and now, it seems, also in the security field. A team of pretty darn clever researchers at the University of Washington has devised a bio-hack that could potentially use DNA-based data to infect computers. Why even try?

Well, because DNA can keep its structure for far longer than a computer’s conventional memory system it could hold the solution to future data storage – but consequently also become a route in for hackers. This is how it works:

DNA sequence scanners decode DNA strings into binary code – translating G-T-A-C variations into a series of 0’s and 1’s, which are then fed into the system. Because malware is written in binary code, it follows that tampered DNA can effectively convey malicious code if sequenced correctly. And because the scanners are connected to the wider lab network, any malware can move from scanner to other devices as easily as in any other infected computer system.

It’s really rather clever stuff, but at present this area of research is viewed as mostly academic, and the chances of it leading to a major outbreak of DNA related cyber crime looks unlikely in the near future. Still, kinda cool.