Can Our Genome Be Attacked by Hackers?
Chief Medical Officer at Intel, John Sotos has expressed his fears of a potential attack on people’s genomes by hackers, through the use of bioweapons.
The concept derives from hackers misusing DNA manipulation that is currently being used to find a cure for cancer. According to The Outline, Sotos believes that the attacks could become possible as a result of the Human Genome Project, and the Cancer Moonshot, a government program that is investing in precision medicine as well as emerging DNA and RNA technologies.
Assuming that the Cancer Moonshot Program succeeds in its goals, he thinks that it will give rise to the possibility of using a computer program to simulate and tamper with everything that’s going on in the genome. This is an emerging technology known as digital biology. He believes that eventually digitally reprogram the human genome in a living human.
Speaking at the DEF CON hacker convention in Las Vegas, he said, “The human genome is full of potential exploits.” The genome is basically an open-source operating system, he added, full of security vulnerabilities. He continued to inform that hackers would have the potential to induce deafness, blindness, baldness, weight gain, strong fishy body odour, or intractable diarrhoea.
As expected, Sotos was faced with a huge amount of criticism from scientists who blamed him for scare mongering. Former US Chief Data Scientist DJ Patil tweeted:
TL;DR strongly disagree because of a bazillion reasons. Creating noise & sounding alarms this way isn't helpful to saving lives
— dj patil (@dpatil) July 31, 2017
Most of the talks given at the convention exaggerate a threat to get attention. There is widespread agreement that genetic information must be protected, but there isn’t much in the way of legislation or market forces that would make that happen. Thought experiments play a role in prompting government to take defensive action, Sotos concluded.