from the gives-fireeye-a-whole-new-meaning dept.
Research to be presented at the 2017 USENIX Security Symposium has shown how DNA sequencing software can theoretically be hacked using malware embedded into synthesized DNA:
Researchers at the University of Washington have shown that by changing a little bit of computer code they can insert malware into a strand of DNA that, when read by DNA sequencing software, allows them to remotely control a computer or cause it to suddenly crash.
In a related analysis, the group evaluated the security of 13 software programs commonly used for DNA analysis, and found 11 times as many vulnerabilities as are present in other types of software.
The "hack" required the team to add a buffer overflow vulnerability into the open source program fqzcomp, so it doesn't reflect a real world risk. But there may be other issues at labs:
Anyone who creates an account at DNA research institutes could also submit sequencing files that could be malicious. Additionally, since bioinformatics software isn't commonly targeted by hackers, the software isn't generally hardened to attacks. They also note patching difficulties since DNA analysis software packages are often aren't[sic] managed in a central code repository.
Quick, let's edit our genomes to add malware!
This research came too late to be used in a CSI script.