A group of students at the Chinese University in Hong Kong have figured out how to store data in bacteria. 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.
They have also developed a three-tier security fence to encode the data, which may come as welcome news to U.S. diplomats, who have seen their thoughts splashed over the Internet thanks to WikiLeaks.
“Bacteria can’t be hacked,” points out Allen Yu, another student instructor.
“All kinds of computers are vulnerable to electrical failures or data theft. But bacteria are immune from cyber attacks. You can safeguard the information.”
The team have even coined a word for this field—biocryptography—and the encoding mechanism contains built-in checks to ensure that mutations in some bacterial cells do not corrupt the data as a whole.
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.
There is cryptography in the project:
In addition we have created an encryption module with the R64 Shufflon-Specific Recombinase to further secure the information.
If the group is smart, this will be some conventional cryptography algorithm used to encrypt the data before it is stored on the bacteria.
In any case, this is fascinating and interesting work. I just don’t see any new form of encryption, or anything inherently unhackable.
Posted on January 25, 2011 at 1:40 PM •