Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Israel Uses Palestinian Land for Treatment of Toxic and Other Waste


© transcend.org
A new report by B’Tselem is titled “Made in Israel: Exploiting Palestinian Land for Treatment of Israeli Waste,” saying:

Israel’s “resource consumption per capita is high and it generates waste accordingly.” Most of its waste disposal occurs in Occupied Palestine, not where it’s generated.

“Abusing its status as an occupying power, Israel has set out less stringent regulations in industrial zones in settlements and even offers financial incentives such as tax breaks and government subsidies,” B’Tselem explained, adding”

“This policy has made it more profitable to build and operate waste treatment facilities in the West Bank than inside Israel” – including disposal of hazardous waste, Palestinian areas transformed into toxic environments.

Four of five West Bank waste treatment facilities process infectious and other medical waste, oil and solvents, metals, batteries, electronic byproducts, and sewage sludge.

West Bank waste disposal regulatory standards are far less stringent than in Israel. “(P)olluting plants in the industrial zones of settlements are subject to virtually no restrictions,” said B’Tselem.

They’re not required to report information on the hazards these operations pose for area residents. Israel’s Jerusalem district environmental protection ministry director Shoni Goldberg admitted “(t)here are certainly wastes, especially hazardous waste and expensive waste, that Israelis transfer to the West Bank to get rid of.”

International standards address the issue of transferring waste from one sovereign state to another. Transferring it to occupied territory is another matter entirely, Palestinians at the mercy of a ruthless occupier, having no say over policies affecting their lives and welfare.

They have no information on what toxic wastes are disposed of on their land, or hazards they face.

B’Tselem: “Any transfer of waste to the West Bank is a breach of international law which Israel is duty-bound to uphold.”

“The provisions of international law stipulate that an occupied territory or its resources may not be used for the benefit of the occupying power’s own needs or economic development.”

“(T)he occupying power is responsible for ensuring public health and hygiene in the occupied territory and must provide (its) residents…with an adequate standard of living, including ‘the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.’ “

Israel consistently and flagrantly breaches international law. Exposing Palestinians to hazardous pollutants is one of numerous ways their lives and welfare are harmed, their fundamental rights ignored – the world community largely silent about how grievously they’re abused, one-sidedly supporting Israel, failing to hold it accountable for its high crimes.

Concerned only about Jews, largely privileged ones, Israel treats hazardous and other waste in the West Bank, “ignor(ing) its legal and moral obligations toward the Palestinian population there,” B’Tselem stressed, adding:

“Israel has turned the West Bank into a sacrifice zone, exploiting and harming the environment at the expense of the Palestinian residents, who are completely excluded from the decision-making process.”

Occupied Palestinians have been grievously abused for the past half century, exposing them to toxic waste one of numerous examples.

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SOTT Earth Changes Video Summary - November 2017: Extreme Weather & Meteor Fireballs

Sott Media | Dec 13, 2017



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BREAKING: OIC recognizes East Jerusalem as capital of Palestine

The Duran | Dec 13, 2017 | Adam Garrie

Under the leadership of the Turkish President, the OIC unites for Palestine, while Erdogan bolsters his personal prestige in a calculated diplomatic masterstroke.

A meeting of the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Turkey has produced a joint declaration on Palestine. The Istanbul Declaration’s main points are as follows:

–The OIC will recognise East Jeruslaem/East Al-Quds as the capital of the State of Palestine

–The US cannot play any part in the peace process as it Washington is not impartial

–Members of OIC nations will push for the UN to recognise the full statehood of Palestine

–The OIC will put pressure on countries which have not yet recognised Palestine as a state to do so immediately

Below is the full text of the 23 point Istanbul Declaration on Palestine:
“1. Reject and condemn in the strongest terms the unilateral decision by the President of the United States America recognizing Al-Quds as the so-called capital of Israel, the occupying Power; reject it as null and void legally, and consider it an attack on the historical, legal, natural and national rights of the Palestinian people, a deliberate undermining of all peace efforts, an impetus to of extremism and terrorism, and a threat to international peace and security; and call upon all member states to give high priority for the Palestinian question in their daily discourses and foreign policy agenda, especially in their dealing with counterparts in other parts of the world;

2. Reaffirm the centrality of the Cause of Palestine and Al-Quds Ash-Sharif to the Muslim Ummah; renew our principled support for the Palestinian people in their pursuit to attain their inalienable national rights, including their right to self-determination and the establishment of their independent and sovereign Palestinian State on the borders of 4 June 1967, with Al-Quds Ash-Sharif as its capital; assert the status of Al-Quds Ash-Sharif in the hearts and minds of the Muslim and Christian peoples throughout the world because it has the first of the two qiblas, the third holy mosque, where Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, started his Mi’raj (Ascension to Heaven), and the birthplace of Jesus Christ, peace be upon him; and resolve to confront any steps that would affect the historical, legal, religious or status of the or political City of Al-Quds Ash-Sharif;

3. Reaffirm our attachment to the just and comprehensive-peace based on the two-state solution with East Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Palestine and consistent with internationally-recognized terms of reference and the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative adopted by the Extraordinary Islamic Summit Conference in Makkah Al-Mukarramah in 2005- as a strategic choice; and call on the international community to act in an effective and serious manner to achieve this solution;

4. Reaffirm our adherence to all resolutions adopted by the regular and extraordinary sessions of the Islamic Summit on the Cause of Palestine and the City of Al-Quds Ash-Sharif, in particular the Extraordinary Summit in Jakarta, including the affirmation that a comprehensive and just peace will be achieved only by ending the occupation and establishing the independent State of Palestine that has full sovereignty on the City of Al-Quds Ash-Sharif as its eternal capital;
5. Consider that this dangerous declaration, which aims to change the legal status of the City of Al-Quds Ash-Sharif, is null and void and lacks any legitimacy, as being a serious violation of the international law, and the Fourth Geneva Convention in particular, and all relevant resolutions of international legitimacy, particularly the U.N. Security Council resolutions No. 478 (1980) and 2334 (2016), the foundations of the peace process that stipulate that City of Al-Quds Ash-Sharif as a final status issue, the agreements signed and the undertakings made in this regard by the United States of America, which requires the immediate reversal of this decision;
6. Hold the U.S. Administration fully liable for all the consequences of not retracting from this illegal decision; and regard it as an announcement of the U.S. Administration’s withdrawal from its role as sponsor of peace and its realization among all stakeholders and an encouragement of Israel, the occupying Power, to continue its policy of colonialism, settlement, apartheid and the ethnic cleansing it has been practicing in the occupied Palestinian territory in 1967, and in the City of Al-Quds Ash-Sharif at its core;

7. Thank regional institutions for their positive stand in favor of the State of Palestine and the status of Al-Quds; and mandate the General Secretariat to mobilize support for the cause of Palestine from all regional organizations.

8. Declare East Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Palestine and invite all countries to recognize the State of Palestine and East Jerusalem as its occupied capital;

9. Assert our continued commitment to protecting the City of Al-Quds Ash-Sharif, its historic status, its cultural mission, and its legal status, and to take all necessary measures to put an end to the violations committed by the brutal Israeli occupation and any party that supports this occupation and its colonial and racist policies; and condemn in this regard the full and unjustified bias of the U.S. Congress in favor of the imperial and racist policies and practices of Israel, the occupying Power;

10. Welcome the international consensus rejecting the declaration of the U.S. Administration, which violates all resolutions of international legitimacy, because of its serious repercussions on the security and stability in the region and the world; and regard this international consensus as a message of strong support for the rights of the Palestinian people and their just Cause and right to their land, notably the City of Al-Quds Ash-Sharif;

11. Support all legal and political steps at the national and international levels, which contribute to preserving the historical and legal status of the City of Al-Quds Ash-Sharif; and support the State of Palestine in its efforts in all international forums to consolidate its sovereignty over Al-Quds Ash-Sharif and the occupied Palestinian territory in general;

12. Call upon all States to continue to fully implement UNSCR 478 of 1980 and in this regard urge all States to: a) refrain from supporting the U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as the so-called capital of Israel and; b) not to relocate their Diplomatic Missions to Al-Quds Ash-Sharif;

13. Call on the U.N. Security Council to assume its responsibilities immediately and reaffirm the legal status of the City of Al-Quds Ash-Sharif, and to end the Israeli occupation of the land of the State of Palestine, to ensure the international protection of the Palestinian people, and to implement and respect all its resolutions on the Palestinian Cause;

14. Affirm its readiness to take up this grave violation in the U.N. General Assembly should the U.N. Security Council fail to act in accordance with the U.N. General Assembly resolution no.377A; the “Uniting for Peace resolution”;

15. Stand for the Cause of Palestine and Al-Quds Ash-Sharif as the main issue in international forums, including Member States’ voting in favor of the relevant resolutions of the Security Council, the General Assembly, the Human Rights Council, the UNESCO and other international organizations and expressing their rejection of any action contrary to this principled position, and any member state taking a different stance shall be considered to have left Islamic unanimity and should therefore be held accountable;

16. Urge strongly all member states to support Bayt Mal Al-Quds Ash-Sharif, the executive arm of Al-Quds Committee chaired by His Majesty King Mohammed VI of Morocco, in order to help the steadfastness of the inhabitants of Al-Quds;

17. Express unequivocal support for the just struggle of the Palestinian people and our condemnation of the Israeli attacks on the peaceful protests of the Palestinian people against the illegal declaration of the U.S. Administration and our full solidarity with the Palestinian people in these difficult circumstances, which require Member States and all peace-loving forces to take urgent action to avoid taking any similar steps and to respond to the imperialist and racist procedures by Israel, the occupying Power, towards the City of Al-Quds Ash-Sharif;
18. Also affirm commitment to provide the necessary material resources to support the steadfastness of the Palestinian people within the occupied Palestinian territory, particularly in the City of Al-Quds Ash-Sharif, who continue to protect the historic, civilizational and legal identity of the Holy City;

19. Strongly urge all Member States, specialized agencies and non-governmental organizations in the Member States to increase their contributions to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) so as to ease the ongoing financial crises, exacerbated by the current humanitarian situation on the ground, and to support the Agency’s valuable work in assisting the Palestine refugees;

20. Call upon the Member States and relevant OIC bodies to continue to provide all forms of economic, social, technical and material support and assistance to the Palestinian people and the State of Palestine including promotion and facilitation of trade with Palestine, developing capacity building programs and enhancing financial and economic assistance to build up a strong and independent Palestinian national economy and to strengthen the economic and social development of Palestine, including the City of Al-Quds Al-Sharif, as its capital;

21. Call upon the OIC Executive Committee and its Bureau and the Ministerial Contact Group on Al-Quds to act expeditiously and communicate with the governments of world countries and international organizations to raise their awareness of the seriousness of this step and the actions of Muslim countries in this regard and to act preemptively concerning any negative consequences of the declaration of the U.S. Administration;

22. Request IDB to support economic and social development endeavors in Quds Al-Sharif and other occupied territories through the “Islamic Solidarity Fund for Development” by prioritizing Palestine’s projects and formulating special and flexible mechanisms and procedures for them;

23. Assert the need to continue to follow developments in this regard and to take the necessary action accordingly”.
How it unfolded

After a closed door meeting, OIC Secretary General Yousef Al-Othaimeen offered brief introductory remarks followed by a statement from Palestine’s President Mahmoud Abbas.

Preisident Abbas hailed the meeting as one of the msot successful Islamic summits in history. He reaffirmed that Palestine cannot accept the US as a peace broker as the US has forfeited any claim to be an honest and neutral partner.

He further affirmed that Palestine will go to the UN in order to declare Trump’s declaration null and void while pushing the UN to recognise the full statehood of Palestine.

The main speaker was the summit’s host Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdgoan. Erdogan stated that the founding mission of the OIC was to protect that sanctity of al-Quds and that today’s summit has shown the world that Al-Quds is not alone.

Erdogan affirmed the mutual stance of the OIC that America’s participation in future peace talks over Palestine has “come to an end” and that OIC member states will identify new mediators along with the UN.

As he did earlier in the day, Erdogan once again showed slides detailing the history of Israeli occupation of Palestine. He then showed images of Israeli soldiers and military style police torturing Palestinian children and other civilians.

Erdogan then rhetorically asked how Trump could defend such actions, saying,
“Hey Trump, are you backing up this country–this Israel? There is torture here…terrorism here..is that what you are defending?”
The Turkish President answered his question by stating that Trump is a defender of a “zealous Zionist rationale”.

He further stated that Trump “would defend such a country” as the US has been using YPG-PYD terrorists to allegedly fight Daesh in Syria.

What is the significance? 

In many ways the most significant development at the summit was the unmistakable position of Iran and Turkey as non-Arab countries, taking a clear leadership role on Palestine, an issue once dominated by Arab luminaries such as Egypt’s Nasser, Libya’s Gaddafi and to an extent Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. Today, Syria remains the only Arab state to continue and speak in a clear and decisive manner for Palestine, although Syria’s own war against terrorism is the immediate priority.

In this sense, the conference helps to further solidify an already strong and rapidly growing Iran-Turkish partnership that just over a year ago would have been difficult to imagine.

This, along with Lebanon’s support for the OIC initiatives affirms my own statements that the Northern Bloc of the Middle East is the clear diplomatic winner in the hearts and minds of the Arab street and the wide Muslim world.

The comparative lack of enthusiasm from Saudi Arabia and its contemporary allies, including Egypt was noticeable. Even Jordan’s King Abdullah II, the custodian of the holy mosques of the Noble Sanctuary in Al-Quds, make what by his standards were strong statements in favour of the OIC’s ultimate decision. Considering Jordan’s normally good relations with Israel and highly good relations with the US, this statement carried considerable weight.

Beyond this, Donald Trump’s move has clearly triggered a geo-political backlash. The signatories to the Istanbul Declaration include countries as varied as Pakistan, Indonesia, Albania, Malaysia and the Arab world. While it remains to be seen which countries will be fully implement the declaration in respect of their own national laws and diplomatic positions, it is clear that the condemnation of the US move has been universal, with even the EU criticising Trump’s unilateralism.

Erdogan’s moment

Turkey’s President  has clearly used the summit to enhance his personal prestige in the wider Muslim world. His impassioned rhetoric and fierce condemnation of both Israel and the US has already proved popular on Arabic social media, outside of the countries with whom Turkey has outstanding disputes.

Beyond this, Erdogan has used the summit to solidify his multi-polar credentials. Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro attended the summit as an observer and Erdogan thanked Maduro profusely during his remarks.

When Erdogan went on to call the Venezuelan President the voice and leader of his region, it was another shot at the US which for years has been trying to oust both Maduro and his Bolivarian predecessor Hugo Chavez.

CONCLUSION: 

In respect of the efficacy of the Istanbul Declaration, it all boils down to how united OIC members will remain when it comes to implementing that which they have pledged to implement.

If a majority of the concerned nations do take active measures to implement the articles of the Declaration, it could have a great deal of geo-political impact, insofar as a wide variety of nations from around the world–nations which don’t often agree with one another, act in unison in response to a highly provocative move by the United States.

For Erdogan, it is largely mission accomplished. He has finally found an issue to bolster his pan-Islamic credentials to the broadest possible audience, while shaming some of his own regional rivals (Egypt and Saudi Arabia in particular) and making it clear beyond a reasonable doubt, that for the time being, Turkey’s once healthy relations with both the US and Israel are over.


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Another Facebook Executive Issues Warning About its Disastrous Effect on Psychology and Society

Waking Times | Dec 11, 2017 | Vic Bishop


“I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works.” ~Chamath Palihapitiya
In a recent talk with the Stanford Graduate School of Business, former vice-president of user growth for Facebook, Chamath Palihapitiya, made some rather startling comments about the impact Facebook and social media are having on human culture.

He acknowledged feeling ‘tremendous guilt’ about his involvement with Facebook, citing the fact that the technology is so widely used that it is actually affecting how human beings interact with one another, upending our entire cultural history of communication.

When asked what ‘soul-searching’ he is doing right now, Palihapitiya responded:
“I feel tremendous guilt… I think in the back deep, deep recesses of our minds, we kind of knew something bad could happen…

It literally is a point now where I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works. That is truly where we are.

It is a point in time where people need to hard break from some of these tools, and the things that you rely on.

The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works…

No civil discourse, no cooperation, misinformation, mistruth. And it’s not an American problem… this is a global problem. 

It is eroding the core foundations of how people behave by and between each other.” ~Chamath Palihapitiya
Watch more of this interview in the following video:



These comments come just a short while after comments made by one of the original Facebook founders, Sean Parker, whose remarks are quite unsettling, pointing at the insidious nature of these tools to exploit weaknesses in human psychology. 
“When Facebook was getting going, I had these people who would come up to me and they would say, ‘I’m not on social media.’ And I would say, ‘OK. You know, you will be.’ And then they would say, ‘No, no, no. I value my real-life interactions. I value the moment. I value presence. I value intimacy.’ And I would say, … ‘We’ll get you eventually.’”

“I don’t know if I really understood the consequences of what I was saying, because [of] the unintended consequences of a network when it grows to a billion or 2 billion people and … it literally changes your relationship with society, with each other … It probably interferes with productivity in weird ways. God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains.”

“The thought process that went into building these applications, Facebook being the first of them, … was all about: ‘How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?’”

“And that means that we need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever. And that’s going to get you to contribute more content, and that’s going to get you … more likes and comments.”

It’s a social-validation feedback loop … exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.

“The inventors, creators — it’s me, it’s Mark [Zuckerberg], it’s Kevin Systrom on Instagram, it’s all of these people — understood this consciously. And we did it anyway.” ~Sean Parker

Final Thoughts


The human race is stepping in to the perfect storm for disaster in our relationship with technology as advances in robotics, artificial intelligence and big data are converging to present us with unbelievable challenges.

Palihapitiya and Parker of Facebook are speaking to the legitimate concerns about these tools on the human psyche and how they affect our psychology. Combine this with robot sex toys, killer-robots, and mind-boggling AI, and we really have to wonder what is coming

Vic Bishop is a staff writer for WakingTimes.com and OffgridOutpost.com Survival Tips blog. He is an observer of people, animals, nature, and he loves to ponder the connection and relationship between them all. A believer in always striving to becoming self-sufficient and free from the matrix, please track him down on Facebook.


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Caterpillar, Porsche among corporations that paid spy firms to snoop on activists – leaks

RT | Dec 13, 2017

© Global Look Press
Big, brand-name companies hired private intelligence firms to monitor political groups considered to be threats to their businesses, leaked documents reveal. The papers shine light on the shadowy world of corporate intelligence gathering.

British Airways, the Royal Bank of Scotland, Porsche and Caterpillar are among the companies that have been identified as having enlisted the services of corporate intelligence firms to spy on – and sometimes infiltrate – activist groups.

Hundreds of pages of leaked documents from two corporate intelligence firms, C2i International and Inkerman Group, reveal widespread use of spies-for-hire among the large companies over several years in the 2000s.

The corporate intelligence firms obtained emails, meeting minutes and other internal documents from the groups they spied on, according to The Guardian, which obtained the leaked documents in partnership with the Bureau for Investigative Journalism. Infiltration was also a common tactic used by the private spy firms. In one notable instance, a private spook “dressed up as a pirate with a cutlass and eyepatch as part of a protest.”

The intelligence firms were also paid to provide advance warning about demonstrations or other political activity being planned against the companies.

The document cache reveals that Caterpillar, one of the world’s largest manufacturing companies, hired C2i to spy on the family of Rachael Corrie, an American activist killed by a bulldozer while demonstrating against Palestinian home demolitions in the Gaza Strip in 2003.

At the time, Corrie’s family was taking legal action against Caterpillar, alleging that the firm was complicit in war crimes by exporting bulldozers to Israel with full knowledge that they would be used to illegally demolish Palestinian homes. The lawsuit was dismissed in 2007 after US judges ruled they lacked the proper jurisdiction to decide the case.

Shortly after the case was dismissed, Corrie’s mother held a conference call with supporters. C2i was able to obtain notes of the call, the documents show. Her comments were summarized in a five-page “restricted – commercial” report known as a “corporate threat intelligence alert” – authored by a C2i operative and stamped with a Caterpillar logo.

When reached for comment, Cindy Corrie told The Guardian that she found the private snooping “really distasteful.” She said her family had approached Caterpillar in the hope of fostering an open dialogue about the lawsuit but was spied on instead.

In 2005, Caterpillar enlisted the services of a different intelligence firm, Inkerman Group, to monitor protests in the UK. The Kent-based firm has a history of infiltrating campaign groups. Documents reveal how the firm was hired by a client to infiltrate a small group of activists in the UK, who were protesting against the construction of new cell towers.

Inkerman declined to comment when asked by The Guardian about who had hired it to spy on the cell tower campaigners. Responding to a separate request for comment, Caterpillar declined to “discuss specifics of its relationship with suppliers.” However, the company said that when it hired outside help, it would “expect those firms to act in a lawful manner and in accordance with our values in action.”

The leaked documents also show that C2i boasted of “real-time intelligence assets” embedded in a range of environmental groups, including Greenpeace. The firm’s clients included Royal Bank of Scotland, British Airways and Porsche around 2008. C2i changed its name before going belly-up in 2011.

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Digitizing DNA - what could possibly go wrong?

SOTT | Dec 7, 2017

© Sergey Nivens/Shutterstock.com
The Conversation - Biology is becoming increasingly digitized. Researchers like us use computers to analyze DNA, operate lab equipment and store genetic information. But new capabilities also mean new risks - and biologists remain largely unaware of the potential vulnerabilities that come with digitizing biotechnology.

The emerging field of cyberbiosecurity explores the whole new category of risks that come with the increased use of computers in the life sciences.

University scientists, industry stakeholders and government agents have begun gathering to discuss these threats. We've even hosted FBI agents from the Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate here at Colorado State University and previously at Virginia Tech for crash courses on synthetic biology and the associated cyberbiosecurity risks. A year ago, we participated in a U.S. Department of Defense-funded project to assess the security of biotechnology infrastructures. The results are classified, but we disclose some of the lessons learned in our new Trends in Biotechnology paper.

Along with co-authors from Virginia Tech and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, we discuss two major kinds of threats: sabotaging the machines biologists rely on and creating dangerous biological materials.

Computer viruses affecting the physical world

In 2010, a nuclear plant in Iran experienced mysterious equipment failures. Months later, a security firm was called in to troubleshoot an apparently unrelated problem. They found a malicious computer virus. The virus, called Stuxnet, was telling the equipment to vibrate. The malfunction shut down a third of the plant's equipment, stunting development of the Iranian nuclear program.

Unlike most viruses, Stuxnet didn't target only computers. It attacked equipment controlled by computers.

The marriage of computer science and biology has opened the door for amazing discoveries. With the help of computers, we're decoding the human genome, creating organisms with new capabilities, automating drug development and revolutionizing food safety.

Stuxnet demonstrated that cybersecurity breaches can cause physical damages. What if those damages had biological consequences? Could bioterrorists target government laboratories studying infectious diseases? What about pharmaceutical companies producing lifesaving drugs? As life scientists become more reliant on digital workflows, the chances are likely rising.

Messing with DNA

The ease of accessing genetic information online has democratized science, enabling amateur scientists in community laboratories to tackle challenges like developing affordable insulin.

But the line between physical DNA sequences and their digital representation is becoming increasingly blurry. Digital information, including malware, can now be stored and transmitted via DNA. The J. Craig Venter Institute even created an entire synthetic genome watermarked with encoded links and hidden messages.

Twenty years ago, genetic engineers could only create new DNA molecules by stitching together natural DNA molecules. Today scientists can use chemical processes to produce synthetic DNA.

The sequence of these molecules is often generated using software. In the same way that electrical engineers use software to design computer chipsand computer engineers use software to write computer programs, genetic engineers use software to design genes.

That means that access to specific physical samples is no longer necessary to create new biological samples. To say that all you need to create a dangerous human pathogen is internet access would be an overstatement - but only a slight one. For instance, in 2006, a journalist used publicly available data to order a fragment of smallpox DNA in the mail. The year before, the Centers for Disease Control used published DNA sequences as a blueprint to reconstruct the virus responsible for the Spanish flu, one of the deadliest pandemics of all time.

With the help of computers, editing and writing DNA sequences is almost as easy as manipulating text documents. And it can be done with malicious intent.

© Anne Manning, CC BY-ND
Participants in CSU’s workshop for the FBI got hands-on training in the techniques of biotechnology.

First: Recognize the threat

The conversations around cyberbiosecurity so far have largely focused on doomsday scenarios. The threats are bidirectional.

On the one hand, computer viruses like Stuxnet could be used to hack into digitally controlled machinery in biology labs. DNA could even be used to deliver the attack by encoding malware that is unlocked when the DNA sequences are translated into digital files by a sequencing computer.

On the other hand, bad actors could use software and digital databases to design or reconstruct pathogens. If nefarious agents hacked into sequence databases or digitally designed novel DNA molecules with the intent to cause harm, the results could be catastrophic.

And not all cyberbiosecurity threats are premeditated or criminal. Unintentional errors that occur while translating between a physical DNA molecule and its digital reference are common. These errors might not compromise national security, but they could cause costly delays or product recalls.

Despite these risks, it is not unusual for researchers to order samples from a collaborator or a company and never bother to confirm that the physical sample they receive matches the digital sequence they were expecting.

Infrastructure changes and new technologies could help increase the security of life science workflows. For instance, voluntary screening guidelines are already in place to help DNA synthesis companies screen orders for known pathogens. Universities could institute similar mandatory guidelines for any outgoing DNA synthesis orders.

There is also currently no simple, affordable way to confirm DNA samples by whole genome sequencing. Simplified protocols and user-friendly software could be developed, so that screening by sequencing becomes routine.

The ability to manipulate DNA was once the privilege of the select few and very limited in scope and application. Today, life scientists rely on a global supply chain and a network of computers that manipulate DNA in unprecedented ways. The time to start thinking about the security of the digital/DNA interface is now, not after a new Stuxnet-like cyberbiosecurity breach.

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