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Medicine Biotech Privacy

New Encryption Scheme Could Protect Your Genome 78

sciencehabit writes "As the cost of genetic sequencing plummets, experts believe our genomes will help doctors detect diseases and save lives. But not all of us are comfortable releasing our biological blueprints into the world. Now cryptologists are perfecting a new privacy tool that turns genetic information into a secure yet functional format. Called homomorphic encryption, the method could help keep genomes private even as genetic testing shifts to cheap online cloud services."
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New Encryption Scheme Could Protect Your Genome

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  • by Idou ( 572394 ) on Monday February 17, 2014 @06:19PM (#46270957) Journal
    If I were not constantly releasing millions of copies of my DNA in the form of dead skin cells everywhere I go. Either my cells need to also adopt this encryption standard, or I need a lifestyle where I am completely self sufficient (including my waste disposal), never having to leave my home.

    Even then, a gust of wind while I am in the backyard might be all that is required one day for someone's reader to catch my DNA and run a simulation to match with facial recognition.
  • Re:Keep it (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Immerman ( 2627577 ) on Monday February 17, 2014 @09:21PM (#46272377)

    Right, because I have the knowledge and equipment to sequence my own DNA make sense of the results.

    Sure, encryption can be broken, and I don't know how far I'd trust IBMs 1st-generation homomorphic encryption, much less this "streamlined, high performance" version adapted by medical researchers, but it's a hell of a lot better than nothing.

    Also, while I'm not an encryption expert, it sounds like homomorphic encryption doesn't actually expose useful information (at least not intentionally, I'm sure it opens up some new attack vectors, everything does). Encrypt A to get B. Apply operations f(B) to get C, decrypt C to get f(A). C is still encrypted gibberish.

    So, assuming it's possible to do public/private key homomorphic encryption, my doctor could send a sample for sequencing along with a public key. DNA gets sequenced and encrypted (ideally both on the same non-networked hardware so that the plaintext data is never accessible to anyone), and the encrypted sequence is sent back to my doctor, archived in a public database, whatever.. Doc can then send it to a third-party DNA analysis firm in Nigeria, who perform all manner of analysis on it and send the reams of gibberish test results back. He then calls me in, the only holder of the private key, and I can then decrypt the results on my secure, open-source computer and present them for his interpretation and advice.

The best book on programming for the layman is "Alice in Wonderland"; but that's because it's the best book on anything for the layman.