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UVA Researchers Attack the Web

Original Article | News

As appeared in NBC29, January 21, 2010

By Julie Bercik

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The University of Virginia is home to many things; the rotunda, the lawn, and of course, Thomas Jefferson. But it's also where you'll find two men taking on the role as cyber police. Right now they're working on security software unlike any other.

Researcher Jason Hiser says, "I had checked my work email to stay on top of things at a local library, when I got back it turns out my work computer was being used for illegal music downloads."

Compromising his UVA accounts, the attack took four months to clear up. But Hiser wasn't upset.

"If anything I was excited," he says, "this actually validates the work that I'm doing."

For the past seven years, Jason has been working with fellow UVA researcher and Professor Jack Davidson on cutting edge security software. His attack helped their research.

Davidson says, "We're basically providing a protective layer around their computer that's a shield that prevents attacks."

Unlike other programs, this one runs continuously, adapting as the attack happens.

"We're basically inoculating their machine," Davidson says. "We're vaccinating their machine so the virus cannot get it."

"It's not like a traditional virus scanner that might look at a file once and declare it okay and then not look at it again for a week or a month," Hiser adds.

The software has been licensed to two businesses, but the goal is to also have it available for everyday computer users.

Hiser says, "I expect everyone to be able to benefit from it in some way. Some people more directly than others."

Both Davidson and Hiser say that more changes will be made to the software before it's released to the public. With technology constantly changing, they constantly have to make improvements.