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Technology Review   In what appears to be the first successful hack of a software program using DNA, researchers say malware they incorporated into a genetic molecule allowed them to take control of a computer used to analyze it.   The biological malware was created by scientists at the University of Washington in Seattle, who call it the first “DNA-based exploit of a computer system.”  

One of the researchers, Tadayoshi Kohno, is known for being among the first to show how to hack into an automobile through its diagnostic port, and how to gain access remotely by Bluetooth connections.   For this experiment, Kohno and Luis Ceze encoded malicious software in a short stretch of DNA they purchased online. This was used to gain “full control” over a computer that tried to process the genetic data after it was read by a DNA sequencing machine.  The researchers admitted that they disabled security features and added a vulnerability to a bioinformatics program to ensure success. Geneticist and programmer Yanif Elrich says their exploits are “unrealistic. But Kohno and Ceze say that hackers one day could use faked blood or spit samples to gain access to university computers, steal information from police forensics labs, or infect genome files shared by scientists. They will present their findings next week at a security summit in Vancouver.

 

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