• Emilio Mordini

FAKE EMAILS AND TRUE EPIDEMICS


March 13, 2019 was a day that will probably come to be remembered. To be sure, no one is realizing it now, but it was the starting day; from March 13, 2019 nothing will be the same. On March 13, My Online Security - a blog informing on online threats like viruses, phishing, malware and email spoofs - issued a warning on a new malspam campaign being sent from email addresses impersonating the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). The subject line of these emails reads "Flu pandemic warning". Emails text informs “influenza activity is severely elevated. US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that during a last four months, the situation has deteriorated essentially: near 20 thousand diseased people were killed by the flu already, and more than 220,000 were urgently hospitalized. To stop spread of the disease and keep people from the flu, US Center for Disease Control and Prevention developed a directions list. You could find DOC file with this list attached to the e-mail. It is recommended to read it attentively and follow the directions to prevent the disease”. Email signature reads “With care of your health, CDC Communication Department”. Unfortunately, by opening the attachment, the GandCrab v5.2 Ransomware is installed on the target computer.

The convergence between molecular biology and informatics is one of the major contemporary trends. It is enough to cite three significant research lines, (1) the creation of large banks of digitalised biological data; once, storing biological information meant creating repositories of biological samples, today this is less and less necessary being enough to collect digital information; (2) the rapid development of DNA steganography, which allows hiding confidential information like secret messages and document images inside the DNA sequence; (3) the tremendous upsurge in biological computers, say, engineered biological systems that can perform computer-like operations, turning digital into biological sequences and vice versa. To be sure, the fake CDC email has nothing to do with these highly innovative technologies, except that it is the first, rough and elementary, example of an informatics virus which spreads by exploiting biological epidemics. Informatics and biological outbreaks will unavoidably converge, when that day comes, may be someone will remember March 13, 2019 as the day when everything started.

Yet, ironically enough, there are still people worried by vaccines and vaccination. They dramatically demonstrate how large is the gap between real and perceived threats.


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