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DNA Takeover

Researchers from the University of Washington have showed that it is possible to encode malware in DNA and use it to attack a computer, the Atlantic reports.

Previously, researchers have encoded Archimedes' "The Methods of Mechanical Theorems," a music video, and a gif of a horse in DNA, but the team led by UW's Tadayoshi Kohno instead encoded a malware program. According to the Atlantic, once that stretch of DNA was sequenced, the malware program launched and took over the computer analyzing the sample.

"The present-day threat is very small, and people don't need to lose sleep immediately," Kohno tells the Atlantic. "But we wanted to know what was possible and what the issues are down the line."

The Atlantic adds that Kohno and his colleagues "cheated" a little as they introduced a vulnerability into the analysis software for their malware to take advantage of. Still, they and others note that the security of DNA analysis software is generally lax. As sequencing becomes even more widespread and as more sensitive data is collected, the Atlantic notes that there might be greater incentive for personal, corporate IP, or forensic genetic data to be stolen or manipulated.