Aug 11, 2017

It's possible to hack a computer using DNA

Shaury Nash / Flickr

Researchers at the University of Washington encoded malware in DNA and used it to infiltrate a computer system. The demonstration exposed vulnerabilities in the process of DNA sequencing, which is increasingly being used by consumers and patients, and adds to the list of cybersecurity challenges facing the health care system.

  • What they did: When DNA is sequenced, the four molecules that make up genetic code (A, C, T and G, for short) are translated to the 0s and 1s that computers use to store information and execute commands. Computer scientists synthesized DNA that, in the process of being sequenced and analyzed, created a file that allowed them access to the computer performing the DNA analysis.
  • Yes, but... The researchers deliberately put a vulnerability in the sequencing software in order to access it. "Their exploit is basically unrealistic," programmer Yaniv Erlich told Technology Review. Still, they demonstrated a DNA-based attack is theoretically possible.
  • The threat: Minimal as of now, say the researchers. DNA sequencing continues to fall in cost and become more common in health care. As the Atlantic's Ed Yong puts it: "But with great ubiquity comes great vulnerability."

Bottom line: "We strongly encourage additional research before such adversarial pressure manifests," write the researchers.

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Gov. Tim Walz to mobilize Minnesota's full National Guard

Photo: Steel Brooks/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced on Saturday he is activating the full National Guard to respond to street violence in Minneapolis that broke out during protests of a police encounter that left a black man, George Floyd, dead.

Why it matters: This is the first time the state has activated the full National Guard since World War II. The Minnesota National Guard tweeted, "We are "all-in" to restore order and maintain and keep the peace in Minnesota." There are already around 700 National Guard troops in the city, and the order could bring another 1,000, The Star Tribune writes.

Go deeper...The aftermath of George Floyd's death: Everything you need to know

Updated 25 mins ago - Science

Live updates: SpaceX attempts to launch NASA astronauts Saturday

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket on the launch pad. Photo: NASA/Joel Kowsky

At 3:22 p.m. ET today, SpaceX is expected to launch NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station for the first time.

Why it matters: The liftoff — should it go off without a hitch — will be the first time a private company has launched people to orbit. It will also bring crewed launches back to the U.S. for the first time in nine years, since the end of the space shuttle program.

Follow along below for live updates throughout the day...

In photos: We've seen images like the protests in Minneapolis before

Photo: Kerem Yucel/AFP/MPI/Getty Images

The photos of protests around the country following the death of George Floyd during an encounter with Minneapolis police are hauntingly familiar. We’ve seen them many times before, going back decades.

Why it matters: "What is also unmistakable in the bitter protests in Minneapolis and around the country is the sense that the state is either complicit or incapable of effecting substantive change," Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, an assistant professor of African-American studies at Princeton University writes in the New York Times. The images that follow make all too clear how little has changed since the modern Civil Rights Movement began in the 1950s.