Meredith L. Patterson 💉💉 Profile picture
Dec 26, 2020 6 tweets 2 min read Read on X

A #langsec take on…:

Okay, so basically the reason mRNA vaccines work is 1) a parser differential between how the immune system interprets an unfamiliar token (the 🔱 nucleoside) and how ribosomes interpret it,

and a subtle semantic bug arising from disparate handling of different representations of an ambiguously representable parse result. The language of mRNA is nondeterministic, and that’s exploitable.

@PowerDNS_Bert’s explanation is really good and you should go read it.

I’m just endlessly fascinated by the way that language, and the mechanisms by which it’s interpreted, constitute an attack surface of whatever end those mechanisms exist to further.

We’re taking advantage of oversights in two systems that evolved in parallel, to trick one of those systems into producing an antigen and the other into producing antibodies which will protect the larger composed system of which both of the systems we’re exploiting are part.

And we do it by sending them a message that is part nonsense, where the nonsense is a nucleoside that neither system evolved to recognise. One system lets it by unremarked, the other transduces it as if it were a known token.

If that isn’t an example of why full recognition before proceeding is important, I don’t know what is. I’m just grateful that this particular exploit can be used for the good of humanity. Image

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