(Oct. 1, 2018) -- They still don’t know how long they had been planning the attack. Either way, the hackers with several strokes of a keyboard, unleashed a malware that hijacked the City of Atlanta’s computer systems. Mayor Keisha Laice Bottoms at the time called it a “hostage situation.” Sam Sam, the group thought to be the masterminds behind the attack, now demanded thousands of dollars in bitcoins or they would continue to freeze access to databases and cripple key departments in the city.
Information management teams caught off guard as to when the infiltration occurred now scrambled to contain the damage. Atlanta, a major global transportation hub, became a victim of one of the largest ransomware attacks in a U.S. city within a matter of moments.
In an effort to prevent another occurrence like Atlanta, Professor Shouhuai Xu, director of the Laboratory for Cybersecurity Dynamics at UTSA, proposes the creation of a malware recognition algorithm which will unmask malicious software, and with a new grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) this may become a reality.
“It’s like a mirror that shows us what is really there,” says Xu about the idea behind his approach to be able to detect the “cosmetic” changes that malicious software uses to camouflage appearances and infiltrate systems. His method will also explore why certain defensive mechanisms are less or more vulnerable.
The NSF grant awarded Professor Xu is valued close to $500,000 to develop the machine-learning algorithm which will also have the task to categorize the large number of malware in the wild, which was 669,000 million in 2017 according to a Symantec estimate.
“It’s like biology. When we encounter a new virus you either defeat it or survive it. The immune system learns to recognize the virus, we are mimicking that defense and going beyond by unmasking the disguised new threats,” added Xu.
News of the NSF award to the UTSA professor first came from Congressman Joaquin Castro’s (TX-20) office.
“As we continue to combat growing cyber threats against our nation and our allies abroad, I welcome this federal grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) that will help our city continue developing effective countermeasures against sophisticated cyber-attacks,” said Congressman Castro in a press release.
The grant will go into effect October 1, 2018 and run through September 30, 2021. And although the award is a step in the countermeasure defensive industry, according to 2018 international estimates from Lloyds of London, about $127 billion are the estimated costs due to cyberattacks.
Professor Xu’s idea is but one approach of many that will be required to build up the cyber resistance. Hackers constantly rely on evasion techniques in this current game of cat and mouse.
“This is the new arms race. We frequently have to elevate our defense and security will always be an open problem. There is no silver bullet,” says Xu about the never-ending war of protecting cyber space.
Home of Cyber City USA, San Antonio leads the nation in cyber security research and development with UTSA playing a critical role. UTSA made news when it secured funding to open its National Security Collaboration Center.
UTSA students, faculty, staff and community members are encouraged to raise their voices and participate in the upcoming joint primary runoff election. Any registered Bexar County voter may vote at the H-E-B Student Union Bexar Room (HSU 1.102).Bexar Room (HSU 1.102), H-E-B Student Union, Main Campus
Adult Mental Health First Aid consists of 6 hours of instructor-led training, in which teaches adults how to recognize the signs and symptoms that suggest a potential mental health challenge, how to listen nonjudgmentally and give reassurance to the individual, student/colleague, who may be experiencing a mental health challenge, and how to refer a person to appropriate professional support and services at UTSAJohn Peace Library (4.04.12C), Main Campus
Refusing to Forget is a collaborative effort to examine and expose the devastating impact of state-sanctioned racial violence throughout the early 20th century in the Texas Borderlands. This will be a two-day workshop.Gregory Luna Room, Buena Vista Building, Downtown Campus
Join fellow UTSA accounting alumni for this fun-filled event that includes breakfast, a round of golf, an awards luncheon and great prizes. All proceeds from the tournament benefit student scholarships.Canyon Springs Golf Club, 24405 Wilderness Oak, San Antonio, TX 78260
UTSA students, faculty, staff and community members are encouraged to raise their voices and participate in the upcoming joint primary runoff election. Election day is Tuesday, May 24. Any registered Bexar County voter may vote at the H-E-B Student Union Bexar Room (HSU 1.102).Bexar Room (HSU 1.102), H-E-B Student Union, Main Campus
The Faculty Coffee Chat is designed to provide faculty members the space to discuss current issues they are facing in an inclusive and supportive environment.Virtual Event
These sessions are focused on incoming Freshman who are attending the UTSA Summer Orientation and are intending to major in areas within the College of Liberal and Fine Arts! We'll have important information and giveaways for you - come meet us.Willow room (SU 2.02.1), Main Campus
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