server farms used enough electricity to power 200,000 U.S.
homes. Furthermore, old-school methods require lots of
space. IBM estimated that 1,000 gigabytes of information
in book form would take up 7 miles of bookshelves. Sandia itself recently completed a 15,000-square-foot building to store 35,000 boxes of inactive records and archival
“DNA is an extremely attractive way of storing information for a number of reasons. First is that it is incredibly
small. The amount of DNA stored in the nucleus of a cell
only occupies … a few hundred femtoliters,” Bachand says.
A femtoliter is the equivalent of one quadrillionth of a liter.
He asserts that DNA-based data storage also is more
secure because current digital storage is rather easy for
hackers to access. Because DNA is in physical form, it can
be locked away just as sensitive documents are, but it also is
far more difficult to decrypt than digital encryption meth-
ods. “Even if someone is able to get that piece of DNA, try-
ing to get text information back out of that would be nearly
impossible,” Bachand says. “The number of possibilities
you would have to go through by brute force to get the cor-
rect code to do the decryption is basically infinite.”
He compares his method to 128-bit encryption, which
Techopedia.com says is “considered to be logically
unbreakable.” Bachand explains that even the simplest form
of his technology would require randomly screening 1089
combinations to crack. That is a 10 followed by 89 zeros.
According to Wolfram Alpha, that is 1 billion times more
than the number of atoms in the visible universe. “The new
way we’re doing it would probably bring it … to an infinite
number you would have to screen,” Bachand says.
DNA is made up of four different bases, commonly
referred to by their one-letter abbreviations: A, C, G and
T. The Sandia method uses a three-base code, which is
how living organisms store their information, to encode 64
distinct characters—letters, spaces and punctuation—with
room for redundancy.
Sandia begins by converting text into “DNA language” in
which A, C, G and T represent all the different characters,
Providing our military with assured
and reliable communications
throughout the world.
Airborne ISR | UAV/COTM Solutions | Managed Networks
Researchers have developed a technique for encoding text
within synthetic DNA that they say would take an infinite
number of random, brute-force attacks to break.