Synthetic biology and future crime

Synthetic biology and future crime


Synthetic biology and future crime

Elgabry, M. & Johnson, S. | 2021 | DAWES CENTRE FOR FUTURE CRIME AT UCL

Synthetic biology involves redesigning organisms for useful purposes by engineering them to possess new capabilities. This briefing identifies eight potential crimes enabled by synthetic biology and suggests some preventative measures to address them.

  1. Bio-discrimination: The use of biological data to discriminate against different categories of people on the grounds of their biological information.
  2. Cyber-biocrime: A new type of crime is created as digital and biological systems increasingly intersect via interconnected laboratories and equipment.
  3. Bio-malware: Criminals could obtain information by gaining remote access to a competitor’s computer system through biological malware – a physical DNA sample containing malware, designed to gain remote access to the computer analysing DNA samples.
  4. Nefarious biohacking: the rapidly declining cost of tools for gene editing has enabled people to practice “biohacking”. For example “at-home” experiments.


Cyberbiosecurity addresses the evolving threat of biotechnology misuse and the emerging risks between cyberspace and biology to develop policies to manager them.

Find out what the remaining crimes are here -

Elgabry, M. and Johnson, S. (2021) Synthetic biology and future crime. Dawes Centre For Future Crime. ULC