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Analysis of security and privacy challenges for DNA-genomics applications and databases

Saadia Arshad, Junaid Arshad, Muhammad Mubashir Khan, Simon Parkinson
Published: 1 July 2021
Journal of Biomedical Informatics , Volume 119; doi:10.1016/j.jbi.2021.103815

Abstract: DNA technology is rapidly moving towards digitization. Scientists use software tools and applications for sequencing, synthesizing, analyzing and sharing of DNA and genomic data, operate lab equipment and store genetic information in shared datastores. Using cutting-edge computing methods and techniques, researchers have decoded human genome, created organisms with new capabilities, automated drug development and transformed food safety. Such software applications are typically developed to progress scientific understanding and as such cyber security is never a concern for these applications. However, with the increasing commercialisation of DNA technologies, coupled with the sensitivity of DNA data, there is a need to adopt a security-by-design approach. In this paper we investigate bio-cyber security threats to genomic-DNA data and software applications making use of such data to advance scientific research. Specifically, we adopt an empirical approach to analyse and identify vulnerabilities within genomic-DNA databases and bioinformatics software applications that can lead to cyber-attacks affecting the confidentiality, integrity and availability of such sensitive data. We present a detailed analysis of these threats and highlight potential protection mechanisms to help researchers pursue these research directions.
Keywords: Cyberbiosecurity / DNA / Genomics / Cyber-attacks / Vulnerabilities / Bioinformatics

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