Social-Engineering, Bio-economies, and Nation-State Ontological Security: A Commentary


  • Brandon Griffin CySecSol
  • Keitavius Alexander Old Dominion University, CySecSol
  • Xavier-Lewis Palmer BiosView, CySecSol
  • Lucas Potter BiosView



Biocybersecurity is an evolving discipline that aims to identify the gaps and risks associated with the convergence of Biology (the science of life and living organisms) and cybersecurity (the science, study, and theory of cyberspace and cybernetics) to protect the bioeconomy. The biological industries’ increased reliance on digitization, automation, and computing power has resulted in benefits for the scientific community, it has simultaneously multiplied the risk factors associated with industrial espionage and the protection of data both commercial and proprietary. The sensitive and potentially destructive power of this data and its access inherently poses a risk to the national and ontological security of a nation. Ontological security refers to the extent to which an individual or group feels secure in their understanding of the world and their place in it. It is a psychological concept that pertains to the way in which people construct their sense of self and their place in the world, and how this sense of self and place is shaped by their interactions with others and the broader social, cultural, and political context in which they live.  Nation-states provide stability and wider social cohesion, but these capacities can be disrupted when the nation state is sufficiently threatened (Bolton, 2021). Leading to an interest in maintaining a national identity; which can have profound effects on the behavior of a nation. Targeted social engineering is aimed at exploiting the changing and damaged mental health of workers in life science enterprises who have not been trained in a sufficient manner to deal with these attacks. Failure to identify the existing vulnerabilities associated with social engineering would expose the bioeconomy to unnecessary risk. Numerous scholars have pointed towards growing risks of nation-state stability being increasingly threatened vs inadequate actions taken to match threats for defense; when reflecting on energy, food, construction materials and more from the multi-trillion US bioeconomy we see that the ground to cover is huge (George 2019, Jordan, 2020, Murch, 2018; Mueller 2021).  This paper seeks to discuss some of the existing vulnerabilities associated with social engineering attacks and the effects those attacks would have on the population's ontological security and spark conversations about ways in which ontological security of nation states are modified.

Author Biographies

Brandon Griffin, CySecSol

Brandon Griffin is studying cybersecurity at CySecSol. He earned a B.S. in Kinesiology from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA. He's fascinated with cyberbiosecurity, informational warfare, and the impact of social media on national security.

Xavier-Lewis Palmer, BiosView, CySecSol

Xavier-Lewis Palmer, Ph.D is an Engineer with a focus in the intersections of Biocybersecurity. His prior degrees include masters degrees in Cybersecurity and Biotechnology, and two bachelor degrees in Philosophy and Biology. His experience covers research, device design, device fabrication, data curation, and analysis, in addition to a variety of tissue engineering and biotechnological assays.