Censoring data on influenza could increase bioterror threat

The attempt to censor science by redacting scientific research may cause the very bioterrorism problems it is trying to prevent, a a leading cyber-security specialist has revealed.

Bruce Schneier, the chief security technology officer for the London-based telecommunications firm BT, spoke before a meeting of flu and security experts last week at the Royal Society in London. He warned the assembled experts that the redaction could lead to additional bioterrorism problems, New Scientist reports.

The meeting came in the wake of a decision by the U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity to publish two scientific papers reporting on an H5N1 flu strain that spreads among mammals. The board previously called to have details omitted from the papers so that bioterrorists would not be able to construct the viruses themselves. The board changed its mind, but the U.S. government published a policy regulating such research in March.

Schneier said that computer hackers are not likely to search the internet looking for random files related to science to hack into.

"If no one knows about it, it's safe," Schneier said, according to New Scientist. "If you announce that you have sensitive information by putting out a redacted paper, then if someone wants to know, they will. Any computer can be hacked."

Schneier emphasized that he was talking about both scientific papers being hacked along with experimental notes and data kept electronically in laboratories.