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Scientists Find Way To Combat Forged DNA

ScuttleMonkey posted about 5 years ago | from the i'll-see-your-dna-evidence-and-raise-you-an-authenticator dept.


An anonymous reader writes to tell us that while scientists may have learned how to forge DNA, it appears that a group of Israeli scientists has created a DNA authentication method that is able to distinguish between real and faked DNA samples. "The new process was tested on natural and artificial samples of blood, saliva and touched surfaces, with complete success, Nucleix said. It also identifies 'contaminated' DNA that has been mixed with two or more samples."

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DNA (-1, Flamebait)

Gizzmonic (412910) | about 5 years ago | (#29150925)

DNA...we all have it. Of course, no one likes to talk about it...but I'm glad someone finally has the guts to do something about it. Fuck DNA!

Re:DNA (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29151029)

I left a DNA sample on your keyboard. Enjoy.

Plausible denability? (4, Insightful)

vertinox (846076) | about 5 years ago | (#29150949)

So if I make fake DNA of myself and throw around a crime scene then I can use this method to prove I wasn't there?

Re:Plausible denability? (1)

atmtarzy (1267802) | about 5 years ago | (#29151025)

They would need some other way of proving you were at the scene to say you were. You can't argue that just because the one bit of fake DNA they found was trying to be yours, you couldn't have been at the crime scene. At least that sounds like the logical solution. Best I can do is hope that's how the legal system actually sees it.

no but ppo and hmo can use this to get our paying (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | about 5 years ago | (#29151079)

no but ppo and hmo can use this to get our paying your bill and just let hold the bag for it.

Re:Plausible denability? (4, Insightful)

Archangel Michael (180766) | about 5 years ago | (#29151157)

No (And spanking the monkey is not "fake DNA")

All it does is provide doubt to the evidence. One cannot prove a negative ("I wasn't there"), which is why we assume innocence, and guilt must be proved beyond REASONABLE doubt.

To prove you "weren't there" you would have to have an alibi; evidence you were somewhere else.

Re:Plausible denability? (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | about 5 years ago | (#29152093)

Luckily "REASONABLE" is a unknown variable, so you still can use it however you like. Isn't ambiguity great...

Re:Plausible denability? (1)

rtb61 (674572) | about 5 years ago | (#29153839)

It still does nothing to prevent a frame up. So one hair with the root intact(genuine sample) under the finger nail of the victim (time specific) and, I bet you anything you like, that the people who genuinely provided you the alibi will join you in prison for sic. perjuring themselves. DNA can be a very powerful and dangerous piece of evidence, it can automatically get people off the hook and we as automatically sentence them.

Re:Plausible denability? (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 5 years ago | (#29155857)

The very fact that you can fake DNA evidence and can detect faked DNA evidence throws up enough uncertainty to make proof beyond reasonable doubt based primarily on DNA extremely difficult.

I'd say that's a pretty epic win, as it will hopefully mean and end to cases where one bit of forensic evidence and a lot of circumstantial evidence and character assassination results in a conviction. That is how many of these cases where someone is initially convicted and later shown to be innocent occur; the jury is mislead about the reliability of the forensic evidence.

Now it can be shown that DNA can be faked and that there is an arms race in progress, hopefully DNA's true value as evidence will be made clearer at trials. Just like fingerprints, handwriting analysis and so on there are differing opinions among experts and ways to tamper with it.

Re:Plausible denability? (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29151537)

So if I make fake DNA of myself and throw around a crime scene then I can use this method to prove I wasn't there?


The technology for amplifying DNA has been around for a while. That is how they take tiny samples and make larger ones for testing. Using household chemicals, you can amplify your DNA easily. And yes, like you said, you could spread that everywhere.

This amplified DNA is missing key methylated chemicals which give it away as amplified DNA.

Current standard DNA tests do not look for DNA missing the methylated compounds.

I think the article is describing a simple, easily standardized, easily implemented test for labs to use with every DNA test that will distinguish between real, amplified and a mix of real and amplified DNA.

The difference between real and amplified is and always has been clear, a mechanism (created by the company in the article) now exists for looking for that difference every time. This keeps the legitimacy of DNA testing intact...your method for deniability is not.

Re:Plausible denability? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29151761)

This amplified DNA is missing key methylated chemicals which give it away as amplified DNA.

Current standard DNA tests do not look for DNA missing the methylated compounds.

It seems like they lack these chemicals only because their presence is not useful for the usual 'legitimate' uses of DNA amplification, so no one bothers to reproduce them. What stops someone from synthesizing the methylated compounds and adding them?

Re:Plausible denability? (1)

minorgroove (1278070) | about 5 years ago | (#29153141)

This solves nothing.

The companies that produce DNA (like GenScript) can make a strand of arbitrary length using any bases. This includes the normal A T C and G, but could also include methylated version as needed.

Testing for methyl groups has been around for a while by using methyl-sensitive DNA cutting enzymes. This procedure would just help you determine which sites to add methyl groups when you are manufacturing your fake DNA. Anyone who has access to a lab (or company) that can make DNA can probably also test for methylation.

One just has to be a bit more careful when producing DNA for crime scenes, though the free market of underground DNA forgers should come in line with the technology soon enough.

And came the authentication authentication... (4, Interesting)

SerpentMage (13390) | about 5 years ago | (#29150953)

First there was radar...

Then came a radar detector...

Then came a radar detector detector...

And now you have a radar detector, detector, detector... or a radar detector evader...

What is common? Only the idiots will be caught and those that don't want to be caught wont be caught and we will use technology to show how good it is to catch the idiots that would probably self-destruct anyways...

Re:And came the authentication authentication... (2, Informative)

goombah99 (560566) | about 5 years ago | (#29151223)

Well in this case the group that developed the test was also the group that showed it was possible to spoof existing tests. and it's a commercial technology: they sell the test kits. So it was totally in their interest to show why you need to buy their test.

But also in this case it benefits the Cat and not the mouse. If someone tries to spoof the existing test and they don't guess right in how to spoof it -- e.g. they try to evade the spoof detector, and don't anticipate there is a new spoof detector evasion detector ) then it sort of nails them for premeditation of the crime.

Wrong - not useful to prove premeditation (2, Insightful)

tlambert (566799) | about 5 years ago | (#29151411)

Wrong - not useful to prove premeditation

"If someone tries to spoof the existing test and they don't guess right in how to spoof it ... then it sort of nails them for premeditation of the crime."

Only if the crime you are talking about is framing someone, rather than the person being framed. Detection of fabricated evidence and contamination of evidence is useful as a defense against DNA evidence, it's not useful to law enforcement, unless the evidence was fabricated by an unrelated criminal. Even then, it only rules them out.

First derivative: In terms of premeditation, the act would be to use the amplification technique to frame yourself, plant evidence at the scene, and then later use the detection method to prove the evidence was manufactured, thus implying you were the victim of a frame-up, rather than the real killer.

Second derivative: A premeditated use of self-incriminating fabricated evidence could use the method as a positive assertion test to ensure that the fabrication would be caught immediately, if it was a standard cross-check, or at trial, if it wasn't. Use by law enforcement in order to manufacture a frame would be as a negative assertion test, to verify that the framing material would pass inspection at trial later, when it was attempted to be used by the defense, to create manufactured evidence which could be successfully used in a frame-up.

So in reality, the framing technique brings into question DNA evidence, and the anti-framing technique brings into question DNA evidence.

-- Terry

Re:Wrong - not useful to prove premeditation (1)

SerpentMage (13390) | about 5 years ago | (#29151457)

Can I use yours as answer... Quite nice... Really logical...

Re:Wrong - not useful to prove premeditation (1)

StikyPad (445176) | about 5 years ago | (#29151691)

So in reality, the framing technique brings into question DNA evidence, and the anti-framing technique brings into question DNA evidence.

Ah, but you only think I guessed wrong! That's what's so funny! I switched glasses when your back was turned! Ha ha! You fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous is never get involved in a land war in Asia, but only slightly less well-known is this: never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line! Ha ha ha ha ha h

Re:And came the authentication authentication... (1)

johannesg (664142) | about 5 years ago | (#29154045)

It's a bit like this [] , then? ;-)

Forged but not duplicated? (2, Informative)

VeNoM0619 (1058216) | about 5 years ago | (#29150979)

This helps prevent the issue of "artificially" generated DNA that was talked about earlier. But only 1 of 2 methods have been solved. What about replicated/duplicated DNA which isn't using other combined DNA?

Either way, like I said before, technology is an arms race. They have authentication for simple forgery, but wait for the next big thing that will fool these tests. Good for them though at least :)

First, a bug (1)

Forty Two Tenfold (1134125) | about 5 years ago | (#29150995)

then, a quick patch.
DNA is software, after all.

get ready for the sequel. (1)

Alzheimers (467217) | about 5 years ago | (#29151049)

Forced to the brink of extinction, scientists somehow found a way to fight back against the scourge ... ... but they underestimated their foe, and will now pay the PRICE for their DEFIANCE...


Full disclosure? (5, Informative)

hansraj (458504) | about 5 years ago | (#29151053)

Dan Frumkin, the lead researcher of the group that created a way to "fake DNA" is the founder of Nucleix, the company selling the test for such forgery.

Not that this has any bearing whatsoever on the quality of the research behind all this, but still one would think that such information was relevant to this news.

Re:Full disclosure? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29151231)

That, and pretty much everything else in the AFP article was already covered in the NY Times article [] mentioned in the earlier Slashdot story on forging DNA.

Disclosed in the News (4, Informative)

LionKimbro (200000) | about 5 years ago | (#29151267)

I don't see any foul play -- the article specifically says just this:

Israeli scientists find way to combat forged DNA [] -- very first line reads: "Israeli scientists have developed new technology to fight biological identity theft after realising that DNA evidence found at crime scenes can be easily falsified."

Then further on: "Elon Ganor is CEO and co-founder of Nucleix, an Israeli company specialised in DNA analysis that conducted the research."

Further on: "To combat the practice, Nucleix has developed a DNA authentication method that distinguishes between real and fake samples."

The article is very clear that the discoverers were also the inventors of the counter-technology.

Re:Full disclosure? (1)

tqk (413719) | about 5 years ago | (#29153373)

Ah, so this is astroturfing? I $(heart) /., so I'm not surprised this happens, nor do I much mind. I do wish it was labeled as such from the start.

Cat and Mouse (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 5 years ago | (#29151101)

So is the cat ahead or the mouse?

Re:Cat and Mouse (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29151227)

So is the cat ahead or the mouse?

Presuming the cat was only hungry for about 80% of it's meal, I would guess that the mouse is a head at this point.

Re:Cat and Mouse (1)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | about 5 years ago | (#29154453)

You're thinking in a far too limited context. It's not that the mouse is ahead. It's that the cat is(?n't) alive/dead and, thus, can(?'t) chase the mouse any longer. This, of course, assumes that the mouse is immune to poison. Perhaps he spent the last 20 years building up an immunity.....

methylation? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29151105)

pff That test probably checks for methylation or something like that. Usually PCR'd DNA is not methylated, also material from PCR might have mistakes in the DNA, especially when a non-proofreading enzyme was used to amplify the fake DNA

Scientists find way to bypass falsified DNA test (1)

burtosis (1124179) | about 5 years ago | (#29151107)

Next weeks news...

Convenient timing (1)

HikingStick (878216) | about 5 years ago | (#29151137)

In any other industry, you'd wonder if the earlier news release was part of a marketing build up for this bit of news.

Then again, is there any reason why we should believe anyone would be beyond such a stunt?

Re:Convenient timing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29151399)

From the NY Times article cited in Tuesday's story, paragraph 4:

Dr. Frumkin is a founder of Nucleix, a company based in Tel Aviv that has developed a test to distinguish real DNA samples from fake ones that it hopes to sell to forensics laboratories.

Innocent Until Proved Guilty (1)

mindbrane (1548037) | about 5 years ago | (#29151165)

From the article:

"Although most of the DNA sequence is identical in all humans, forensic scientists scan 18 regions on the sequence that vary from person to person, allowing the identification of a single person with extremely high accuracy."

"DNA is in many cases what breaks trial suspects and allows their conviction 'beyond reasonable doubt,'" said DNA analysis expert Adam Friedmann, dean of the Marine Science School at Israel's Ruppin Academic Centre."

"DNA profiling is an excellent technique that is improving by leaps and bounds," he said."

"There is nearly a 100 percent accuracy in identification," he said, adding that there is less and less need to bring other evidence linking a person to a crime scene."

"Courts in Israel, the United States and elsewhere are relying more and more on DNA forensic evidence to close cases," according to Friedmann."

Granted that the article is addressing a forensic method, the spirit of the above quotes are disturbing. "...there is less and less need to bring other evidence linking a person to a crime scene." Jeez! I thought one of the principles of a court hearing was to bring as much evidence as possible to bear. Also the article doesn't seem to mention the method. I presume profiling implies a statistical method and, as such, doesn't warrant the close minded tone of the quotes.

Forensics does have a really cool idea called "the forensic inference principle", which infers that... "a cause must have at least as much structure as the effect"(loosely recalled from 'Fins into Limbs')... the inference that "the structure of the event reflects the structure of the cause" is one of those rules of thumb that's handy to keep in mind.

I think ... (4, Funny)

PPH (736903) | about 5 years ago | (#29151259)

It also identifies "contaminated" DNA that has been mixed with two or more samples.

... I know the lady responsible for collecting those mixed samples.

Re:I think ... (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | about 5 years ago | (#29152131)

Yo momma?

(Sorry, that was a dead giveway. ^^)

So this is how evolution started? (3, Funny)

Grindar (1470147) | about 5 years ago | (#29151285)

Now begins the genetic arms race?

It's simple, really.. (1)

StikyPad (445176) | about 5 years ago | (#29151625)

You just get the DNA of the DNA, and then it's DNA all the way down.

OH, how unexpected! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29152381)

I totally never saw this happening, this was like TOTALLY out of the blue man.
This was as unexpected as that blackhole coming out of LH.. oh wait, that never even worked, bad analogy.

Was this a shock to anyone?
Sounds like one of those Break, Fix and Re-sell jobs.
"Oh hey guys, we managed to fake DNA, everyone is screwed now!"
"Oh hey, well we managed to create this new process to detect fake DNA, BUY OUR SHIT YA'LL"

So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29152383)

Does this mean that we have to plant REAL human hairs at the crime scene now?

And to think, it was so easy before, making the fake DNA evidence in my lab for a few thousand dollars and a couple months time. Damn scientists!

I See (1)

ae1294 (1547521) | about 5 years ago | (#29153279)

So we DO indeed have a working Cylon detector after all?

Technologies nowadays.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29154557)

Wow, this is cool. Technologies nowadays could really fake DNA but with this new research and which is tested, this is really nice.It cannot be faked, this is very useful especially in investigating crimes or solving them.

Karen Davis

step 3.....Profit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29155111)

1 Hey everybody, you can fake DNA evidence!
2 Hey everybody, we can show it is forged look at our product....
3 ...

DNA request forgery? (1)

Ant P. (974313) | about 5 years ago | (#29155455)

This would never have been a problem if everyone had just used DNASEC to begin with.

A decade or two late. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29170881)

It pains me that this work, both the faking and the detection, hasn't seriously happened before we elevated the rather poor DNA-to-vague-bars-on-plastic-sheets method to ``the gold standard of forensics''. It's a bit like mandating DVD crypto for all law enforcement before a serious crypto team had even looked at it.

Besides, DNA may be a tad too ubiquitous to be suitable for crime scene investigation. Suppose you throw a cigarette butt in an alley and a day later a bum gets murdered there. Bam, instant suspect. And instantly findable because everybody's DNA is on the national biometric enforcement database. This is progress as our governmental overlords define it, like it or not.

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