The BBC’s Jonathan Amos has reported that Cambridge scientists have proven, what their US colleagues did in 2012, that data can be stored within DNA and, more importantly, successfully retrieved.
My mind jumped at the potential. The environmental and maintenance arguments are reasonable. Other than the process of transferring data into DNA, in the right conditions, the storage doesn’t require electricity. Scientists report there’s little if any maintenance costs for the actual DNA. And there’s no backward compatibility issues. However these are all subject to broader considerations and risks. At present, DNA storage, is economically beyond the reach of most. However history has proven that, with technological advances, these costs will come down surprisingly quickly.
However, where ever there’s progress there’s risk. I found myself wondering what the implications might be regarding information confidentiality, integrity and availability. Here are a few of my initial thoughts.
Encoding Binary Code
To transfer the binary code, used to store data in computers, into DNA an element of translation needs to take place. This is performed by a device running code/software developed to do this by, in this case, the scientists.
Hardware, software and people contain many vulnerabilities which are subject to a wide range of threats whose impact could effect the integrity, confidentiality and availability of the storage solution and its contents.
Storing DNA Code
The article highlights 3 conditions for storing DNA effectively. Cold , dry and dark. I’d add a further set of conditions to ensure they meet the needs of government and business storage. They need to ensure the facilities are secure from threats which could result in a breach of confidentiality, integrity and/or availability of that data.
Decoding the DNA Code
When retrieving the code, from the DNA in which it is stored, there needs to be a process of decoding. Again this will involve hardware, software and people who are subject to vulnerabilities which could be exploited by a wide range of threats which could result in a breach of information security.
Collaboration & Research (The Obvious)
There will be obvious areas for research within the information security domain which would require close collaboration with the world of science, in particular microbiologists. What vulnerabilities exist within DNA cell structures, how could these be exploited and by what? What would be the impact on the integrity of DNA storage solutions, should these threats materialise, and how could these risks be cost effectively managed and mitigated.
Collaboration & Research (The Not So Obvious)
There is growing evidence and science that cell structure can be manipulated through energy and psychology. Could energy, such as electromagnetic pulses, be used to destabilise DNA? Could techniques used for managing cell memory be utilised to undermine the integrity of DNA storage solutions?
If you have any thoughts you would like to share leave a comment or contact the author Bruce Hallas here.