Until now, DNA was known to carry genetic information for growth and development. Could you imagine the same deoxyribonucleic acid to act as a hacking agent? Well, the researchers in University of Washington believe so. Moreover, they have been successful in breaking through a computer system using this DNA malware.
With this new co-relation between the digital and the biological world, hackers can create fake spit DNA or blood samples. Also, it can be misused gravely to infect research files or break through university computers. Even the forensic DNA samples can be compromised. All in all, it can become a potential cheat code for future generations.
This has been the world’s first attempt to hack a computer genetically. It might sound strange, but none can undermine the clever clogs.
The hack has been attributed to the weak firmware used in gene sequencing procedures. Primarily a malware was incorporated into the life-encoding molecule. This malware was created by translating a computer command to a short stretch of 176 DNA codes using the A, T, G, C bases. The DNA was brought from a vendor at $89. The malware-infected DNA strands, when fed to the sequencing unit, converted to the binary language (0 and 1) of the computer. This step was enough to take over the entire sequencing machine with all its inputs.
The research team was led by Luis Ceze and Tadayoshi Kohno of Paul G Allen School of Computer Science and Engineering. “We designed and created a synthetic DNA strand that contained malicious computer code encoded in the bases of the DNA strand. When this physical strand was sequenced and processed by the vulnerable program it gave remote control of the computer doing the processing. That is, we were able to remotely exploit and gain full control over a computer using adversarial synthetic DNA,” they reported.
If the well-protected DNA in the organisms can be exploited in this manner, it won’t be long before humans itself turn into a medium for hacking each other. How technology progresses is an awe altogether!
However, the experts also claim that there is no staged threat of the DNA-malware as of now. “We don’t want to alarm people or make patients worry about genetic testing, which can yield incredibly valuable information. We do want to give people a heads up that as these molecular and electronic worlds get closer together, there are potential interactions that we haven’t really had to contemplate before,” Dr. Luis Ceze assured.
Nonetheless, since it was just a research project it aims to call attention for tighter security systems to be employed while any Bioinformatics analysis is carried out. Otherwise this DNA-encoded cyber-threat can soon become a torturous reality.