Scientists at the University of Washington devised an ingenious, bold computer attack by hiding malware in physical DNA #securemagic
How can a computer be susceptible to such an attack, you might ask? Well, if the tainted DNA is put in a gene sequencer to analyze it, you can imagine that the resulting data can corrupt the software and eventually, take control of the computer that runs it.
That’s what a brilliant team from the University of Washington did. They started from the premise that analysis programs read a DNA’s strand bases before turning them in binary data. So, they came up with an attack that withstands that translation. When FASTQ (the format that stores the DNA sequence) was compressed, it attacked the software used to compress it. From that point on, it easily broke out of the program and reached the computer’s memory to run its own commands there.
Now, this is not gonna happen tomorrow or in five years’ time. But there’s no denying that DNA sequencing is only advancing, not retreating. Soon, third-party services will take care of these processes and it’s not hard to imagine one of them making a mistake and causing a disaster.
Plus, as any threat, it’s worth knowing where the blow can come from. This is what the scientists did, showing in the same time that some sci-fi theories aren’t at all far-fetched.