Hacking Swine Flu
So how many bits are in this instance of H1N1? The raw number of bits, by my count, is 26,022; the actual number of coding bits approximately 25,054 -- I say approximately because the virus does the equivalent of self-modifying code to create two proteins out of a single gene in some places (pretty interesting stuff actually), so it’s hard to say what counts as code and what counts as incidental non-executing NOP sleds that are required for self-modifying code.
So it takes about 25 kilobits -- 3.2 kbytes -- of data to code for a virus that has a non-trivial chance of killing a human. This is more efficient than a computer virus, such as MyDoom, which rings in at around 22 kbytes.
It’s humbling that I could be killed by 3.2 kbytes of genetic data. Then again, with 850 Mbytes of data in my genome, there’s bound to be an exploit or two.
Posted on September 1, 2009 at 1:13 PM • 50 Comments