How evildoers could hack into DNA data

DNA data output
This output from a sequencing machine includes the University of Washington team’s exploit, which is being sequenced with a number of unrelated strands. Each dot represents one strand of DNA in a given sample. (UW Photo / Dennis Wise)

Computer scientists are turning DNA into a new frontier for data storage and information processing, but a team from the University of Washington says it could become a frontier for cybercrime as well.

To prove their point, the researchers turned a snippet of malicious computer code into a string of synthetic DNA, and then used it to take control of a computer that was programmed to search for patterns in the raw files that emerge from DNA sequencing.

They also found known security gaps in many of the open-source software programs that are used to analyze DNA sequencing data.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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