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UT-Arlington Research Is Aiding The Global Fight Against Malware


A malware attack earlier this summer caused disruption around the world. June's WannaCry cyber assault locked down hospitals, government offices and major corporations and held their data hostage for cash.

Malware is software intended to damage or disable computer systems and ranges from viruses and worms to bugs designed to steal your password. Officials are scrambling to come up with new ways to fight back. 

A research group at the University of Texas at Arlington is developing tools to detect and analyze malware. Computer science and engineering professor Christoph Csallner talks about the group's efforts.

Interview Highlights: Christoph Csallner...

...On types of malware they're studying: We're looking at relatively complex kinds of viruses, where different parts interact with each other. Malware authors are very motivated because it can do big damage, so they have the motivation to be very clever and exploit all kinds of small problems it can find in software, in operating systems like Windows and Android.

...On the behavior of malware: We've been working on tools to understand all the steps that the malware is doing in the computer: the instructions that the malware is executing, which parts of the operating system the malware is changing or reading, and then the actions that the malware is doing. It can be very sophisticated, and it can also be adapted.

If you have a well-sponsored, advanced group, then they're going to keep monitoring the system online, so they also see what the defenders are doing, and then they can adapt the attack. They can install new malware. They can change the behavior. So it can be quite a battle between the defenders and the attackers.

...On the future of cybersecurity: There are things on the horizon to make software more secure and have fewer security holes, but fundamentally, there will always be holes because the software is just so complex. If you just think of your computer, of what it can do, it can just plug in any device; you can do all kinds of things with computers. There are so many features, so much functionality.

Learn more

  • Christoph Csallner's report on malware [The Conversation]
  • Four ways to protect your computer against ransomware [Wired]
  • What you need to know about ransomware [Think]
  • Why June's ransomware attack is more alarming than the last [Marketplace]
  • Strange history of ransomware [The World]

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Justin Martin is KERA’s local host of All Things Considered, anchoring afternoon newscasts for KERA 90.1. Justin grew up in Mannheim, Germany, and avidly listened to the Voice of America and National Public Radio whenever stateside. He graduated from the American Broadcasting School, and further polished his skills with radio veteran Kris Anderson of the Mighty 690 fame, a 50,000 watt border-blaster operating out of Tijuana, Mexico. Justin has worked as holiday anchor for the USA Radio Network, serving the U.S. Armed Forces Network. He’s also hosted, produced, and engineered several shows, including the Southern Gospel Jubilee on 660 KSKY.