Israeli Scientists Show How to Fake DNA Evidence

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Scientists in Israel have reportedly demonstrated that it is possible to fabricate DNA evidence and undermine the credibility of what was once considered the gold standard of proof in criminal cases.

The scientists were able to fabricate blood and saliva samples containing DNA from a person other than the donor. They also showed that if they had access to a DNA profile in a database, they could easily construct a sample to match that profile without having to obtain any tissue from that person.

Crime Scenes Can be Easily Engineered

According to Dan Frumkin, lead author of the study, any biology undergraduate could easily engineer a crime scene. Dr. The good news is that Frumkin has developed a test to distinguish real DNA samples from fake ones and hopes to sell it to forensics laboratories. (Source:

Another implication of the findings is the potential invasion of personal privacy. For example, it may be possible to scavenge anyone's DNA from a discarded drinking cup or cigarette butt and turn it into a sample that can be submitted to a genetic testing company.

Tania Simoncelli, science adviser to the American Civil Liberties Union, said the findings are worrisome because DNA is a lot easier to plant at a crime scene than fingerprints, and we're creating a criminal justice system that increasingly relies on this technology.

DNA was Fabricated Two Ways

DNA was fabricated two ways: one required a real, if tiny, DNA sample such as a strand of hair or a drinking cup. Once a tiny sample was obtained, it was amplified into a large quantity of DNA using a standard technique known as genome amplification.

A hair or drinking cup could be left at a crime scene to frame someone, but blood or saliva samples are much more convincing.

The other technique of fabricating DNA samples relied on profiles stored in law enforcement databases.

DNA Snippets Cloned, then Formed to Forge a Library

From pooled samples of several people's DNA, cloned sample 'snippet' could be created. From that, a DNA sample matching any profile could be made by mixing the proper snippets together. A library of 425 different DNA snippets would be enough to cover every conceivable profile. (Source:

According to the New York Times report, Amplified DNA -- which would be used in either case mentioned previously -- is not methylated, meaning it lacks certain molecules, and usually to inactivate genes. (Source:

Should You be Worried?

John Butler, leader of the human identity testing project at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) was impressed at how fabricated DNA samples could be spoofed, but doesn't think the average criminal could do something like that.

Mr. Butler is perhaps missing the point, however. In the case of a DNA database, it's not the criminals that people are worried about. It's the governments running the databases that people are worried about -- and as history has shown, for good reason. (Source:

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