Magazine article National Defense

Potential Vulnerabilities Exist in Biosecurity Programs

Magazine article National Defense

Potential Vulnerabilities Exist in Biosecurity Programs

Article excerpt

* Scientists have been increasingly able to digitize biological information to benefit the warfighter, from automating drug and vaccine development to collecting disease surveillance data.

But biologists remain largely unaware of the potential risks of digitizing biotechnology in ways that are important for national defense, according to one expert.

The results of a 2016 Defense Department-led study reveal that there are multiple potential vulnerabilities within critical biomanufacturing processes, said Randall Murch, a research lead and professor at Virginia Tech and a former FBI agent.

Murch examined the vulnerabilities of manufacturing vaccines and biotherapeutics that have implications for the wider national security community, he said. Several federal agencies, including the Defense Department and the Department of Health and Human Services, are now evaluating the study, he noted.

His team quickly realized the potential vulnerabilities of drug delivery systems, personalized medical devices, robotic surgery equipment and more, he said.

"All of these technologies... are accessible, usually from the outside of that system" provided a pathway exists or can be created, he added.

Those vulnerabilities include data that is collected, stored and then used for master technical documents in laboratories, which could then be collected and manipulated to reflect small changes that would cause harm, he said.

Adversaries could also potentially gain entry to a virtual private network to become "the man in the middle" of activities in progress, he noted. …

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