Biological steganography

David Lubkin (
Wed, 06 Oct 1999 14:10:48 -0400

I've always thought steganography was cool. This morning I started wondering about placing or hiding messages inside biological organisms.

Variant 1: We complete mapping the human genome, and are studying the results. We find a message, perhaps in the introns. A sequence of prime numbers. A picture, like the one Sagan et al composed to send outward. The text "I am the Lord thy God." A copyright statement.

Variant 2: Commercial genetic-engineering firms use PGP to encipher a message, which they place in the introns of modified products they sell, as proof of the authenticity of the product. Or, they hide a message, perhaps including a serial number, as a way of detecting piracy.

Variant 3: Or spies use it, to transfer information. The secret plans to the new weapon are in the E. coli in the intestinal tract of the agent. Or in the placement of phosphorus in the third rib of a puppy being shipped to Riyadh.

Question -- What biological structures or biochemical patterns can we alter today, or very soon, with a fine enough granularity to fit a lengthy message and long-term stability? Which can be altered in vivo, and which can only be used on corpses? || Unreasonable Software, Inc. || a trademark of USI:

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