Bio-crime. Are we prepared for it?

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Security and Crime Science


Living in the most technologically exciting times with ML, AR and IoT introducing a smarter life and bringing a faster industrial revolution, the new generation of criminals are inevitably more 'tech savvy' than ever before. Advances in biology makes even more exciting technologies such as DNA sequencing and engineering publicly available. Can we predict and defend ourselves from the new offending opportunities?

Despite the more obvious uncertainties with the recent political advances, a far greater uncertainty lies within the future development of technology, its social impact and the security concerns it brings to light worldwide. Rising technologies comprise of the Internet of Things (IoT) and wearables. Smart devices, homes, cars and cities recording personalised data are changing social behaviours globally as they are rapidly adapted in people's daily lives. The production of all this information does not even challenge the end of Moore's law and silicon processors, as advances in biology introduce building computers from DNA. This presents further progressions from wearable technology, such as fitness watches and augmented reality glasses, to "insideables" or electronic implants such as radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips. The 'biohacking' or transhumanism movement steps away from the medical insertion of foreign devices within the body such as cochlear implants, pacemakers, IUD catheters and heart valves to name a few, but rather stimulates the initiative of enhanced and evolved human capacities, namely cyborg properties. Amal Graafstra, CEO of a biohacking company 'Danger Things' in Seattle, is now raising funds for a Church of Transhumanism (CoT). The initiative of self-augmentation has rustled a few feathers with Germany's most recent reminder that forbids any experiments outside licensed and supervised laboratories with a fine of EUR50,000 or up to three years in prison. This Do-It-Yourself (DIY) mindset is prevailing with an increase of DIY Bio Labs around the world making laboratory techniques used in molecular biology and genetics such as DNA sequencing available to the public without any science background or qualification. These factors alone may be viewed as natural developments of each respective field, but taken together pose a concerning uncertainty in the new opportunities of offending it will create, one that is not yet equipped for from malicious behaviour.
The ongoing challenge of cybersecurity, which was a result of the birth of the internet without any pre-planned defence, serves as precedent to the future challenge of "Bio-crime." Unless certain precautions are taken, Bio-crime will become a difficult task to control especially with the rapid development of genetic engineering at a pace of five times Moore's Law. These measures may be effective only when this transformation of offending is better understood and pre-empted. How fast is the 'grinder' community growing? Have members of this 'biohacking' community been involved in crime? What form of crimes do they commit?
This research will give a brief overview of the technologies that are catalysing this paradigm shift of crime, namely IoT, Bio-Computers and "insideables". The social changes shaped from these technologies will then be explored to identify the new opportunities of offending they produce, here referred to as "Bio-crime". The aim is to determine how these emerging trends might best be identified at the earliest possible stage before they escalate. Data science techniques will be predominately used to predict how, when and what form these new opportunities will have.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/N509577/1 01/10/2016 30/09/2021
1918475 Studentship EP/N509577/1 25/09/2017 25/09/2021 Mariam Elgabry