Malware attack can trick biologists into producing dangerous toxins

Malware attack can trick biologists into producing dangerous toxins

Researchers urge for improving bio-cybersecurity as threat actors can use malware to target Synthetic DNA Orders to modify DNA strings sequence. 

A group of academic researchers from the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Israel’s Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya identified a new kind of cyberattack that allows attackers to target the security gaps in the DNA procurement process.

The article titled “Increased cyber-biosecurity for DNA synthesis” was published in Nature Biotechnology. Researchers write that threat actors can launch an end-to-end cyber-biological attack to target DNA researchers.

According to the report, this can allow attackers to deploy malware, trick biologists into creating dangerous toxins or pathogens, and alter synthetic DNA orders.

See: Researchers Encode Physical DNA with Malware To infect Computers

Previously it was assumed that an attacker must have physical access to a dangerous substance to produce and deliver it. However, Ben-Gurion researchers claim that by infecting a bioengineer’s computer with malware, it is possible to replace a short sub-string of the DNA, enabling them to mistakenly and unintentionally generate a toxin-producing sequence.

According to the BGU Complex Networks Analysis Lab head, Dr. Rumi Puzis,

“Most synthetic gene providers screen DNA orders which is currently the most effective line of defense against such attacks.”

“However, outside the state, bioterrorists can buy dangerous DNA, from companies that do not screen the orders. Unfortunately, the screening guidelines have not been adapted to reflect recent developments in synthetic biology and cyberwarfare.”

Puzis revealed a weakness in DNA providers’ guidelines from the U.S. Department of ..