Researchers and lab students investigating computer viruses at the University of Alabama at Birmingham became so good at it, a company was spun off to take on clients and “phish” for malware within their systems and help combat cybercrime.
Gary Warner, director of research in computer forensics at UAB, told the Kiwanis Club of Birmingham Tuesday his group discovered through years of research that there was no antivirus software that could fully fight the viruses that have infected computers of 46 percent of online adult users in 2012 alone. Warner estimated $110 billion was spent in the U.S. to clean up infected PCs in 2012.
To combat the lack of effective antiviruses, go after cybercriminals, help with cybercrime investigations and protect consumers, businesses and the government, Warner and several cofounders started Malcovery Security.
UAB owns 25 percent of the new company that also has sponsors, including Bank of America, Facebook and e-Bay.
Warner and his team at UAB’s Center for Information Assurance and Joint Forensics Research put themselves on the map last year when they helped the FBI track down the international cybercrime ring responsible for stealing tens of millions of dollars online through viruses that look like email replicas of bank statements, bills and other transfers that trick users into opening them. That gave the criminals access to the user’s computer and accounts via online access.
Today, Warner helps district attorneys conduct cyber investigations and the center has helped corporate partners such as e-Bay, UPS, Google, Microsoft, FBI and Facebook.
Facebook gave Warner’s center a $250,000 donation after it helped track international criminals behind a social media spam outlet. The donation came from money Facebook recovered from spammers around the world and was used to expand the center’s UAB headquarters by 4,400 square feet, Warner said. Read Facebook’s post about the investigation and acknowledgment to Warner for his center’s role here.
Cybersecurity is a growing field, with an estimated need of 11,000 computer investigators next year, Warner said, but he is concerned there won’t be enough trained workforce to fill the demand considering the U.S. will only graduate 1,100 with that specialty next year.
Warner is also worried about the ability to prosecute cyber criminals in the future, with sequestration prompting a pay cut of 10 percent to FBI agents’ salaries and a reduction of their hours.
Written By: Cindy F. Crawford, Editor. Article originally appeared in the Birmingham Business Journal