Fighting cyber-crime one app at a time

October 22, 2014

This summer Victoria University of Wellington will be home to four Singaporean students researching cyber threats. The students have been working with Dr Ian Welch, a lecturer in Victoria's School of Engineering and Computer Science, as part of a partnership between Victoria and Singapore Polytechnic.

In their final year of a diploma in information security, the students have been working in groups to develop software to protect online programmes from or such as viruses or spyware.

One of the group projects is a malware detection site called Open Bouncer which is used to test Android apps to see if they are secure and reliable.

This offers two levels of information. The first shows clearly if the application is safe or not and for more tech savvy users there is the option to expand on the results to show more detail and even add to the software themselves.

Dr Welch has been remotely mentoring the students over the past few months through weekly Skype calls. He says he is looking forward to finally meeting them in person.

"They have been working on practical software projects, and this visit will help them get research backing for the work they are doing."

As well as providing advice, Dr Welch helped the students to test their programmes to see if they would stack up against real cyber threats using malware samples created by cyber criminals.

Dr Welch says that the Open Bouncer system will be used in further research at Victoria University into methods of fighting that are similar methods to the ones police use to catch regular criminals.

"The police will set up a 'honey pot' where a car is left unlocked in a rough end of town waiting for thieves to steal it. We plan to do something similar by leaving a piece of unprotected and waiting for the malware to attack. We will watch how the malware works so we can build better defences against future threats."

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