It was interesting to read about a team of students and their advisors from CUHK School of Life Sciences won gold with their bioencryption project (see more news) at the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) 2010 competition organized by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
“Why can’t bacteria be hacked? If the storage system is attached to a network, it’s just as vulnerable as anything else attached to a network. And if it’s disconnected from any network, then it’s just as secure as anything else disconnected from a network. The problem the U.S. diplomats had was authorized access to the WikiLeaks cables by someone who decided to leak them. No cryptography helps against that.”
And Bruce even started his article with, “The article talks about how secure it is, and the students even coined the term “bioencryption,” but I don’t see any encryption. It’s just storage.“
I can’t find a full technical paper to read but after reading the above press reports and the team’s iGEM project description, project principle, and project results, I have to say, like Bruce, I also don’t see any encryption and it looks like just storage to me.
And reading scientist’s quotes like the following in popular press,
“Bacteria can’t be hacked. All kinds of computers are vulnerable to electrical failures or data theft. But bacteria are immune from cyber attacks. You can safeguard the information.“
just don’t exactly give me confidence that the scientist fully appreciate/understand computer security/cryptography.
I don’t mean to be too critical of some of the CUHK team’s achievements. I think they have done well. At the same time, I think it is very important for serious scientists to know the limits of their scientific claims and don’t overextend without proper justified support.
Of course, I might be wrong, and it will be wonderful if someone can explain to me what I missed so that I can learn and understand. If I am mistaken, it will be my pleasure to correct this article.
July 19, 2011 update:Here are some more info about Bruce from info security, “Interview: BT’s Bruce Schneier – BT’s Bruce Schneier has made a reputation for himself by exploring the unconventional sides of security. Drew Amorosi sat down with this industry luminary to gain a greater understanding of the man and, briefly, dive into the mind and life that is Bruce Schneier…“