Researchers Inject Computer Malware into DNA for the First Time

  In what seems to be an example of a futuristic blending of biological essence and machine logic, researchers at the University of Washington have demonstrated, for the first time, the ability to inject computer program malware into DNA sequencing.  The malware was then used to exploit various computer applications used in DNA sequencing.

After extensive analysis, key research findings include:

  • The ability to create adverse side-channel information leaks in several DNA sequencing technologies.
  • Bioinformatics applications used in DNA sequencing have information systems vulnerabilities, such as insecure function calls and buffer overflows, that allow an adversary to take control of the application or system.
  • Cybersecurity best practices are lacking in the computer coding and implementation of software applications used in the DNA processing.
  • Derivation of hypothetical DNA sequencing attack vectors with recommendations to mitigate potential attacks.

The findings suggest a need for increased cybersecurity awareness in the implementation of DNA sequencing technologies.

Bioinformatics applications are susceptibility to computer system vulnerabilities (such as the aforementioned buffer overflows) that are known to be the result of poor computer coding techniques.  For years other professional technology sectors (e.g., banking, energy, transportation) have made significant efforts to eliminated programming vulnerabilities that allow malware code execution in their computer systems.

Secure programming due diligence in the form of training, tools, and techniques are now required in the genome sequencing field where cyber attacks that once seemed too resource intensive and technically difficult for hacker to undertake are now a possibility.

The full detailed academic research paper is available at:

Facebook Shut Down An Artificial Intelligence Program That Developed Its Own Language

  Deep learning uses neural networks to learn tasks that contain one or more hidden layers.  What is the nature of deep learning?  Is deep learning predictable?  More importantly, what are the consequences of deep learning in autonomous machines?  The link below, about an experiment at Facebook that took some unexpected turns, is a very interesting article that feeds into perceptions on either the benevolent or malevolent of artificial intelligence (AI).  Implementing AI raises questions of whether machine learning should be supervised by humans, partially supervised, or be completely autonomous.

The Annual Technology Vectors brief has been published by the AFCEA International Technology Committee

  The Armed Forces Communications & Electronics Association (AFCEA) International Technology Committee has released an update of its annual presentation on current technology trends.

The briefing provides insights and expertise on emerging technology hot topics most relevant to Federal technology leaders and why these technologies require further scrutiny.

The technology vectors are featured in a concise knowledge base format and includes points of contact for questions and additional information.

Vector topics include elements and sub-elements surrounding cloud computing, smart/additive manufacturing, big data analytics, Apache Hadoop & Apache NiFi, advanced cybersecurity, quantum computing, and mobility/wireless communications.

The advanced cybersecurity areas include cyber supply chain anti-counterfeit measures, light-weight encryption for use in IoT devices, micro-segmentation protection capabilities in data centers, and artificial intelligence (AI) insertion for machine-to-machine security.

Requests for downloads of the presentation can be made at:

Crafting a Cyber Defense Strategy beyond the Perimeter: as Cyber Espionage Exploits bypass Traditional Cyber Defenses

In a new chapter to cyber technology exploitation story, U.S. cybersecurity researchers at FireEye have discovered evidence of a stealthy attack vector on Internet traffic network routers that allows cyber espionage to go undetected.  This data extraction and redirection exploit has been observed internationally in the network devices of private industries and governments across multiple continents.  The attacks have been mainly directed at routers supplied by technology world-leader Cisco, but other network device manufacturers may be targeted as well.

The attacks use a highly sophisticated form of malicious software, dubbed “SYNful Knock.”  The malware replaces the basic operating system software controlling the routers.  SYNful Knock presents all the qualities of an advanced persistent threat (APT) as it is difficult to detect and remains in place even when devices are shut down and restarted.

Network routers are very good targets for the adversary because they usually operate outside the perimeter of traditional cyber defense tools (e.g., firewalls, anti-virus software, intrusion detection/protection systems, HBSS, etc.) used by organizations to safeguard data flows.  Controlling the router allows sensitive data to be selectively redirected to unintended destinations. .

Until now, routers were considered predominantly vulnerable to only DDoS attacks.  SYNFUL Knock represents a significant APT escalation in an adversary’s ability to exploit and defeat cyber devices, tools, and technology.

This implies when forming a cyber defense strategy an organization must think beyond traditional concepts of network perimeter defense.  A “strategy” that relies on technology alone is too much of a tactical approach and limited in its ability to defeat a sophisticated adversary.  This is why strategic planning that incorporates a maturating, long range view for protecting the network based on the components of Cyber ART – Attribution, Rules of action, and Trust relationships (discussed in my earlier post) is a better approach to strategy in the long run.   Cyber ART fosters leadership aptitudes of “adaptation & improvisation” – crucial abilities for senior decision makers to think above and beyond the limitations of traditional concepts of data protection.

Additional details on the SYNful Knock exploit may be found at:

Strategic Cyber Espionage

Cyber criminals, suspected to be based in China, are targeting key elements of India’s critical information infrastructure with the “key strategic goal of collecting intelligence,” according to cyber security firm FireEye.

“The campaign’s attacks were also detected in April 2015, about one month ahead of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first state visit to China,” the firm said.

FireEye posits the advanced persistent threat (APT) attack vector used spear-phishing emails containing Microsoft Word attachments headlining regional issues of interest and contained a malware script called WATERMAIN, which creates backdoors on infected machines.

More on the above article is available at:

Cybersecurity Strategy Needed for the Banking Industry

Even though cybersecurity has been recognized as a high priority among financial institutions, the results of a recent survey conducted at FICO’s Asia Pacific Chief Risk Officer (CRO) Forum revealed 64% of senior banking officials in the Asia Pacific region feel their institutions are not prepared for cyber threats.

Findings from the survey bear close correlation to trends identified in a 2014 PwC report that found cybercrime to be the second most prevalent economic crime within the financial sector.  This provides a clear indication within the banking industry – that can easily be extrapolated to other business sectors  – of the growing need for implementation of a cyber strategy framework to deal with computer network vulnerabilities, hacker threats, and attacks to customer data and critical information technology infrastructures.

Ideally, a comprehensive strategy should be scalability to the size of the organization, have defensive capabilities that mature over time, and incorporate three main elements – the means for assigning attack attribution, dynamic rules-of-action for impact mitigation, and established trust relationships for threat prevention and business recovery information sharing.

These concepts form the fundamentals of two in-depth methodologies I have developed entitled,  “Cyber Strategy Maturity Modeling” and “Cyber Strategic ART (Attribution, Rules, and Trust).”

Fiat-Chrysler recalls 1.4M Vehicles to Prevent Hacking

Fiat Chrysler has decided to recall about 1.4 million cars and trucks in the U.S. just days after two hackers detailed how they were able to take control of a Jeep Cherokee SUV over the Internet.

The company will update software to insulate the vehicles from being remotely controlled, and it implied that the hackers committed a crime, saying in a statement Friday that unauthorized remote manipulation of a vehicle is a criminal act.