Genetic Encryption

aka Bioencryption

Image from Anders Sandberg

There are two distinct encryption technologies referred to as 'genetic encryption': one in which sequences of genetic material are used to carry the message, the other in which they are used for the key. Both of these techs started to be developed in the Information Age.

DNA as message carrier

Standard DNA and RNA have four possible nucleotides for each base pair; thus, non-protein-coding areas of a genetic strand can be used to encode two bits worth of data in each base pair. Given the possibility of mutations, to ensure fidelity of a message, it is a good idea to use redundancy and error correction so that even multiple mutations will not result in any significant data loss.

DNA as cryptographic key generator

When creating a cryptographic key, it should be as random as possible, to avoid allowing any ways of making it easier to ferret out the key than simple brute force computation. The more random something is, the more entropy it is said to have specifically, 'information entropy'). Certain aspects of DNA, such as random mutations, are one potential source of such entropy.

However, most truly random physical phenomena that are used to generate bits rarely generate 0's and 1's in equal amounts. There are various ways to 'even them out', creating a truly random stream of bits to encode with, one of which is to XOR the original random stream with a "pseudorandom" stream. When used correctly, a DNA sequence can serve as such a pseudorandom stream.

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Development Notes
Text by Daniel Eliot Boese
Initially published on 15 April 2011.