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Malware Hidden in Synthetic DNA Could Infect Sequencing Systems

06:40 EDT 10 Aug 2017 | Genetic Engineering News

Although we are accustomed to computer viruses, we remain confident that the kind of infectious code that threatens biological systems remains distinct from the kind of code that threatens computer systems. We may need to lose the false sense of security. Code that can bridge the biological/computational divide is an unnerving possibility, one demonstrated by a team of computer scientists based at University of Washington. The team has demonstrated for the first time that it is possible—though still challenging—to compromise a computer system with a malicious computer code stored in synthetic DNA. When that DNA is analyzed, the code can become executable malware that attacks the computer system running the software. The team also analyzed the security hygiene of common, open-source DNA processing programs to uncover evidence of poor computer security practices used throughout the field. These findings emerged from a study that will be presented ...

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