Cybercrime targeting your kids and your DNA
Part of this blog’s purpose is to keep people up to date with the latest threats from cyber criminals. Naturally, when we find mention of a trend neglected by the research community, I feel obligated to give it what small signal boost I can. In this case, it’s in the field of biotech, and new security risks posed by DNA synthesizer machines. We’ve talked briefly in the past about this new reality. The lines between the digital and physical continue to blur. DNA itself had already been shown capable of storing data, and even been used to hack a computer system.
Now, due to the various signals DNA synthesizers emit, from sounds to electromagnetic radiation, a new risk arises. Something as simple as your smartphone’s speakers could detect these signals, and be used by a skilled hacker to determine the specific type of DNA involved. This is a significant threat to patient data. According to the official report from University of California researchers, such information in the wrong hands could be used to create a contagious virus dangerous to individuals or a small group. So now we’re no longer dealing only with computer viruses. When a misplaced phone can have such results, it’s time for bioengineers to take cybersecurity more seriously. “The take-home message for bioengineers is that we have to worry about these security issues when we’re designing instruments,” says William Grover, a bioengineering professor at the university.
Another threat is also one that we’ve encountered before, but which now has Emily Wilson, security researcher writing for The Next Web, calling it a trend. Back in 2015, we saw how Chinese toy manufacturer VTech allowed a security flaw to expose customer data for millions of children. Even that recently, however, Wilson discusses how extraordinarily rare it was to see a kid’s personal information for sale on a dark web marketplace. Unfortunately, this has changed. Advertisements for full sets of a child’s data can found be found with increasing regularity. Offered by the lowest of the low among illicit vendors, these bits of data include Social Security numbers and birthdates.
While kids naturally have less data than adults, they have enough for cyber thieves to monetize. Enough to piece together to forge synthetic identities that leverage unchecked SSNs. This can have severe long term consequences, not the least of which is massive debt accrued under the child’s name, which may go undiscovered for years.
Children are targeted for information gathering as much as adults, and the inherent risks involved are slowly but surely coming to apply to them as well. That is why it’s important to draw as much attention to these issues as possible. Only by awareness and action can damage be mitigated, and fewer kids affected than might otherwise be.