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Will we see the ‘digital genome’ emerge and expand?

Could the digital genome concept also help with solutions to tackle cybersecurity challenges?

DNA quadruplex. Image by Thomas Splettstoesser, CC BY-SA 3.0,
DNA quadruplex. Image by Thomas Splettstoesser, CC BY-SA 3.0,

The digital genome promises to move forward scientific and technical research at a rapid rate. A digital genome is a reference to complete digital sets of genetic material, captured from an assessment of the DNA present in an organism.

By digitising such biological data, the complex sequences of information become easy to share and for researchers to examine. Such information can be utilized in the research on genetic disorders and chronic diseases, as examples.

Furthermore, digitally captured nucleic acid offers instant access to trait sequences to understand issues regarding genetics of the diseases. This connects with new fields like Digital Genome Engineering, which refers to the application of computational approaches to overcome these challenges through modelling and optimisation of genome engineering applications.

Could the digital genome concept also help with solutions to tackle cybersecurity challenges? Looking into the potential application of such data for Digital Journal is Chip Epps, VP of Product at OPSWAT.

Epps notes that: “Going into the new year, we may see an emergence of a “digital genome” (that is, digital DNA) to better track associated certified “cyber-engineered” modifications.”

So how might this application also help the cybersecurity community as well as, say, academia? Epps says: “Cyber-attack groups and specific bad actors often reuse code components and various TTPs based on their historical success, or simply as a matter of expediency, and with that comes their unique signature – like a sequence in their DNA.”

This is where the new technological possibilities come in. as Epps finds: “This could be a simple algorithm unique to an attack group, or a clone of elements from previous successful attacks they are familiar with.”

He cautions that: “The practice of threat intel sharing has been very successful as the industry quickly realized that combating cyber threats is a global issue.”

For example, Epps notes: “As hashes are specific to files and have served the community well in managing distinct threats and threat families, there will be a need to bring this concept to a higher level. This means doing more to associate malware to its source or creator – like the sequencing of a gene – to help organizations more quickly remediate vulnerabilities and risks.”

This tantalizing possibility leads Epps to conclude: “With the idea of a “digital genome,” malware researchers and reverse engineers can identify these distinctions and apply rule-based languages like YARA to detect these malware authors within specific metadata and behavioral indicators.”

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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