In a new article published in the journal Nature Biotechnology, cyber researchers at Ben Gurion University in the Negev in Israel suggest that unscrupulous hackers and bioterrorists could use the largely automated systems used to make synthetic DNA for Kidnap laboratory experiments.
By stealthily injecting malware into system code, these bad actors could replace a substring of DNA on a scientist’s computer – with potentially fatal consequences.
In addition, bioterrorists could theoretically buy dangerous DNA from companies that do not precisely investigate the origin of orders, making the DNA provider an ignorant accomplice in a chemical or biological attack.
« To regulate both intentional and unintentional generation of dangerous substances, most synthetic gene vendors review DNA orders, which is currently the most effective line of defense against such attacks, » said Rami Puzis, head of Complex Networks Analysis at the university laboratory.
The U.S. Department of Health is issuing guidelines for DNA providers, but Israeli researchers found that screening protocols for those who buy DNA are vulnerable to obfuscation techniques used by hackers, causing them to request toxin-producing DNA should be poured in that this should be rejected immediately.
« With this technique, our experiments have shown that 16 out of 50 disguised DNA samples were not detected in the screening according to the HHS guidelines » best match « , says Puzis.
Researchers highlight a worrying ease of access to vulnerable automated systems used in the synthetic genetic engineering arena due to poor cybersecurity defenses.
They propose improved screening algorithms that specifically protect the in vivo gene editing work in the laboratory to prevent such DNA injection attacks from ever occurring.
Research, Biology, Computer Security, Viruses, Scientists
World News – AU – Bioterrorists Can Hijack DNA Systems, Make Scientists Produce Deadly Toxins, Warns of Explosive New Research
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