Home' Link : Link Issue2 Contents SPYING ON THE HACKERS
Your banking data could be within arm's reach from cyber criminals,
discovers Priscilla Crighton.
Your vir us protection may be up to date and your
fire walls strong, but is your private information
completely protected from prying eyes? According
to CQUniversity researcher Matthew Kennedy, moder n day
hackers known as bot-herders are developing ingenious ways
to sneak under the radar to conduct malicious activities in our
cyber worlds. And our banking data could be their key targets.
Bots are computer programs that perform tasks with
some degree of autonomy. They can be used for sending spam,
spying on private data, distributing malicious software,
phishing attacks and other breaches of online security without
the computer user's knowledge or consent. As a general r ule,
bot-herders make efforts to hide their botnet and implement
schemes to prevent detection.
"Botnets are widely considered to be a major security threat
on the Inter net with banking fraud becoming an increasing
problem," said Kennedy, who believes that stealth botnets
could already be lurking under the surface on computer
networks, waiting for the right opportunity to attack. "Bots
can load before the actual operating system like Windows,
preventing detection software from seeing it."
The CQUniversity botnet project -- a kind of health check for
our internet sec urity systems -- is developing new techniques for
detecting botnets that may have escaped detection by cur rent
security systems. As part of the project, Kennedy has delved
into historical network data using advanced detection systems,
seeking out bots that have been previously undetected.
Kennedy believes this research could lead to a greater
understanding of real-world botnets, as well as improved
prevention and detection techniques. "All computer
administrators and users could benefit from this improved
Kennedy cur rently works for CQUniversity's Information
Technology Division as a Senior Systems Analyst and
Developer, where he has his hand on the pulse when it comes
to infor mation technology
systems and processes.
Despite the extent of
the first-class systems
and processes in place,
Kennedy believes education
and research facilities like
CQUniversity may not be
immune to threats from
attacks are more likely to
aim at collecting banking
credentials where the gains
are far more immediate.
Nonetheless, the University's cyber control centre provides a
great space for research and data collection for researchers like
Kennedy, who also maintains the University's main software
Kennedy has come a long way since he began working at
the institution back in 1986 when his main role was copying
Apple II diskettes for distance education students. He later
became a programmer for various campus divisions and
worked on early computer-assisted learning programs. He also
developed a number of expert systems in collaboration with
the Department of Primary Industries.
However, it is the capacity of the Internet that has
intrigued Kennedy in recent years, sparking the focus of
his research. "The Inter net was designed to be an open
system. Securing it is a difficult but important problem,"
Kennedy explained. "I have had an interest in malware since
disassembling the first polymorphic vir uses in the early 1990s.
The area is broad, deep and constantly changing."
With this ever-changing face of Internet security, it is vital
researchers like Kennedy keep investing in the knowledge and
strategies to keep our online world safe and secure.
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