What to Do When Hackers Crash Your Gene Pool Party

Genetic testing companies like 23andMe and Ancestry offer a pretty enticing prospect. Just mail off a little bit of your spit in a tube and the company’s lab can reveal the details of your ethnic background and trace the many branches of your family tree. The popularity of such tests means these genomics and biotechnology companies hold a whole lot of very personal data about their customers, and hackers tend to see their databases as targets ripe for the picking. Earlier this month, the private data of millions of 23andMe customers was stolen and put up for sale on hacker forums. Most troublingly, the data gathered targeted specific ethnic groups, including Ashkenazi Jews and people of Chinese descent.

This week on Gadget Lab, we talk with WIRED senior writer Lily Hay Newman about the 23andMe hack, what it means for the people who were directly affected, and whether it’s a good idea to give companies access to your genetic material and history in the first place.

Show Notes

Read more from Lily about the 23andMe hack and some updates on how it has gotten even worse. Follow all of WIRED’s cybersecurity coverage.


Lily recommends Taylors of Harrogate Yorkshire Tea, specifically the flavor Malty Biscuit Brew. Lauren recommends Pasta e Ceci. Mike recommends the episode of the New York Times podcast Popcast titled, “Do We Need Album Reviews Anymore?

Lily Hay Newman can be found on social media @lilyhnewman. Lauren Goode is @LaurenGoode. Michael Calore is @snackfight. Bling the main hotline at @GadgetLab. The show is produced by Boone Ashworth (@booneashworth). Our theme music is by Solar Keys.

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