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First DNA-based computer virus jumps the cyborg hardware barrier.

On January 1, 2016, the Southern Fried Science central server began uploading blog posts apparently circa 2041. Due to a related corruption of the contemporary database, we are, at this time, unable to remove these Field Notes from the Future or prevent the uploading of additional posts. Please enjoy this glimpse into the ocean future while we attempt to rectify the situation.


The first fully integrated cybernetic virus would be a lot funnier if the implications weren’t so terrifying. Signs of trouble began around lunchtime Tuesday. New Yorkers with gastrophic augments noticed an abnormal rumbling in their stomachs. Within a few hours, the phenomenon was tracked to a single food truck, El Pollo Gordo, making the Manhattan rounds. Get too close and the stomach implant, designed to track calorie consumption and regulate diet at the source, would trigger the illusion of hunger.

It certainly has been a good week for the Fat Chicken. Almost a third of all Manhattanites have a gastrophic augment and hungry cyborgs are lining up around the block. El Pollo Gordo denied any knowledge. That seems likely, since food trucks don’t tend to run sophisticated biohacking labs in addition to deep-fryers. 

So what’s going on?

The virus appears to be based off of the Zero Cloner I reported on last week–a basic self-replicator with just a tiny amount of source code that inserts a stop codon into a DNA computer’s rootkit. The Zero Cloner appeared to be an intellectual experiment; it caused almost no harm and was relatively easy to remove. And it couldn’t really spread outside of a molecular server farm’s intranet.

Though this new virus, dubbed Alpha Cloner, bears the unmistakable fingerprints of Zero Cloner, it is much more malevolent. It reproduces and spreads like a natural virus, through physical contact and, potentially, as an airborne vector. Once it finds a host, either Status Quos or augmented humans, it reproduces rapidly in the brain and spreads. For Quos, that’s where it ends. Other than using our cells to replicate, the virus doesn’t interfere with natural systems.

For cyborgs, this is just the beginning of the problem. Once in the brain, the virus can hijack transcriptors in standard DNA/hardware interfaces. We’ve said for ages that this interface is the weakest point in cyborg systems, with almost no security in place to prevent biotic invasion–like the one we’re seeing today. The infection pathway superficially resembles older social networking platforms that allowed extensive API-sharing, resulting in even the most secure systems exposed to the vulnerabilities of the least secure. That’s how entire corporate properties could be hijacked through a Facebook post

Here’s what makes this virus really clever. Once it hijacks transcriptors, it can feed code into the digital hardware designed to let the powerful, but relatively slow DNA computers talk to the faster conventional processors. The virus then embeds itself in both rootkits, allowing access to all the cybernetic systems.

The actual manifestation of the virus is trivial. That it compares coordinates fed from the geolocator unit to the location of El Pollo Gordo’s truck and triggers hunger pangs when the two are within 100 meters is just one of a million different actions it could take once it has root access to an augmented brain.

The Zero Cloner is out there. Alpha Cloner is likely only the first attack by someone who appears to be testing the effectiveness of their system through increasingly sophisticated infections. But anyone with basic genetic engineering skills could replicate Zero Cloner and add their own root kernel. Today, we have hungry cyborgs in Manhattan, tomorrow the world’s entire population of augmented humans could be compromised.

At the moment, there is no fix for Alpha Cloner. Augments who suspect that they’re infected should de-link their geolocator until a patch is released. In the meantime, El Pollo Gordo is providing free chimichangas to infected patrons.


On January 1, 2016, the Southern Fried Science central server began uploading blog posts apparently circa 2041. Due to a related corruption of the contemporary database, we are, at this time, unable to remove these Field Notes from the Future or prevent the uploading of additional posts. Please enjoy this glimpse into the ocean future while we attempt to rectify the situation.


Deep-sea biologist, population/conservation geneticist, backyard farm advocate. The deep sea is Earth's last great wilderness.


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