Author
David Harley
David Harley
Senior Research Fellow

Education? Academic background in modern languages, social sciences, and computer science. A Fellow of the BCS Institute (formerly the British Computing Society), Chartered IT Professional, Certified Information Security Systems Professional, BS7799/ISO27001 Lead Auditor.

Highlights of your career? Office administration, programming, and IT support at Royal Free Hospital, then with Human Genome Project. System administration and support, then security analyst at Imperial Cancer Research Fund (now Cancer Research UK). Wrote/co-wrote/edited a number of Internet FAQs and my first articles on programming, security etc. I presented my first conference papers in 1997 (at Virus Bulletin and SANS), and soon after inherited the Mac Virus web site, which I still run as an independent security information resource. In 2001 I joined the UK’s National Health Service, where I ran the Threat Assessment Centre until 2006, acquired qualifications in computer security, security audit, and service management (ITIL), and was the go-to person nationally for issues related to malware. Viruses Revealed, published the same year by Osborne, wasn’t my first security book (I’ve written or contributed to about a dozen) but it was the first to make a real impact and was published in 2001: that, and the AVIEN Malware Defense Guide (Syngress), to which Andrew Lee also contributed, are probably the best known of my books.

Position and history at ESET? Senior Research Fellow at ESET N. America. I’ve worked with ESET since 2006, primarily as an author and blogger, editor, conference speaker, and commentator on a wide range of security issues. Essentially, they put up with me because I’ve been around so long.

What malware do you hate the most? Malware is just code. It’s malicious people I detest. While I’ve no love of the gangs behind phishing scams and banking Trojans, fake AV, 419s, support scams and so on, I can see that it’s easier to be honest in a relatively prosperous environment, if there is such a thing anymore, and that cybercrime can be driven by an economic imperative. But I have nothing but contempt for those sociopaths who cause harm to others for no reason except that they can.

Favorite activities? The guitar (I still play semi-professionally when time allows), songwriting, recording, listening to other people’s music. I love opera but don’t attempt to sing it. Photography, art, poetry, country walking – well, ambling is about as much as I can manage at my age – good food and wine, good television when I can find it...

What is your golden rule for cyberspace? Scepticism is a survival trait: don’t assume that anything you read online is gospel truth. Even this adage.

When did you get your first computer and what kind was it? Amstrad PCW in 1986. It ran a version of CP/M and came with an integral printer, word-processing software and versions of BASIC and Logo. I moved on to an 8086 when I got my first job in IT. What else would you expect a not-very-rich author to buy in 1986? :)

Favorite computer game/activity? Extra-curricular writing (blogging, verse, articles). Artwork and digital photography.

More Info

Phishing for Tesco Shoppers

A phishing scam targeting Tesco bank customers puts on a festive party hat and pretends to offer something for nothing. Is this a topical trend?

The Death of Anti-Virus: conference paper

Death of a Sales Force: Whatever Happened to Anti-Virus? is a paper written by Larry Bridwell and myself for the 16th AVAR conference in Chennai, which was kindly presented by ESET’s Chief Research Officer Juraj Malcho, as neither Larry nor myself were able to attend the conference in the end. The paper is also available

Phear of Phishing

(All four blog articles in this series, of which this article is the last, are available as a single paper here: The_Thoughtful_Phisher_Revisited.) From the sort of ‘visit this link and update or we’ll cancel your account’ message that we saw in the previous blog in this series (The Less Thoughtful Phisher), it’s a short step

The Less Thoughtful Phisher

Less innovative than the scam mails described in my previous articles (Phish to phry  and The Thoughtful Phisher II), there are those phish messages that suggest a problem with your account that they need you to log in to fix. (Of course, you aren’t really logging in to a legitimate site.) Mostly their appeal is

The Thoughtful Phisher II

In the previous Thoughtful Phisher blog, we looked at some visual clues that should tip you off that a email from a ‘bank’ is not to be trusted. Just as interesting here, though, is the variety of social engineering gambits used by this wave of phish campaigns. It’s worth taking a closer look at some

Phish to phry: The Thoughtful Phisher Revisited…

[A much shorter version of this article appeared in the October 2013 Threat Radar Report as 'The Thoughtful Phisher'. As these particular scam/spam campaigns don’t seem to be diminishing, however – indeed, some of the phishing techniques seem to be getting more sophisticated – I thought perhaps it was worth updating and expanding for a

Tech Support Scammers: Talking to a Real Support Team

It so happens that I live over 5,000 miles from the ESET North America office in San Diego, and so tend not to have water cooler conversations with the people located there. Of course, researchers working for and with ESET around the world maintain contact through the wonders of electronic messaging, but there are lots

Tech support scam update: still flourishing, still evolving

[Update 30th October 2013: with regard to the ping gambit discussed below, please note that protection.com now responds to ICMP echo requests - in other words, if you now run the command "ping protection.com" you should now see a screen something like this: Note that this is perfectly normal behaviour for a site that responds

Why Mac security product testing is harder than you think

As both Macs and Mac malware increase in prevalence, the importance of testing the software intended to supplement the internal security of OS X increases too. But testing security products on Mac is tricky, due to Apple’s own countermeasures. Can it be made easier?

Comment/No Comment: a word about blog comments

After taking quite a long break from comment moderation on the WeLiveSecurity blog, I’ve recently started receiving comment notifications and have therefore been able to moderate some of the comments that have I’ve seen, and I thought it was worth passing on some thoughts about the moderation process as I see it. I should make

Catch me if you can: Can we predict who will fall for phishing emails?

A new paper aims to profile the victims most likely to fall for a phishing attack. But what is less clear is how you develop a profile while avoiding the pitfalls of stereotyping.

Whiter-than-white hats, malware, penalty and repentance*

I was recently contacted by a journalist researching a story about ‘hackers’ quitting the dark side (and virus writing in particular) for the bright(-er) side. He cited this set of examples – 7 Hackers Who Got Legit Jobs From Their Exploits – and also mentioned Mike Ellison (formerly known as Stormbringer and Black Wolf, among

My Back Pages* – Virus Bulletin papers and articles

I recently completed my 14th Virus Bulletin conference paper, co-written with Intego’s Lysa Myers, on “Mac hacking: the way to better testing?” to be presented at the 23rd VB conference in October, in Berlin. The paper itself won’t be available until after the conference, but the abstract is on the Virus Bulletin conference page here.

The London Scam and the Londonderry Air

My colleagues at ESET Ireland, report that an all-too-familiar scam is currently hitting Irish mailboxes. I’ve talked about it at some length here previously – for instance here and here – but here’s a quick summary. Someone, apparently someone you know (a friend or a family member) contacts you to tell you that they’ve been

Darkleech and the Android Master Key: making a hash of it

I made a comment recently that was subsequently quoted in a recent ESET blog – Android “master key” leaves 900 million devices vulnerable, researchers claim – and it appears that comment may have confused one or two people. What I actually said was this: “Security based on application whitelisting relies on an accurate identification of

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Where? – Academic Publishing Scams

[A shorter version of this article was originally published - without illustrations - on the Anti-Phishing Working Group’s eCrime blog.] Phishing attacks targeting academia aren’t the most high-profile of attacks, though they’re more common than you might think. Student populations in themselves constitute a sizeable pool of potential victims for money mule recruitment and other

Social Engineering, Management, and Security

A BYOD dissonance between economic imperative and loss of central control? Discontented staff susceptible to social engineering? David Harley reflects on aspects of Business Reimagined, a new book by Dave Coplin, chief envisioning officer at Microsoft UK, interivewed by Ross McGuinness in Metro.

Support Scams: we don’t really write all the viruses…

…and nor are we responsible for fake AV/scareware and (more recently) ransomware, though I did suggest in a paper I presented at EICAR a couple of years ago that the bad guys who do peddle that stuff are all too proficient at stealing our clothes, and that maybe some security companies were making it easier

Intellectual property protection and good badware

As an earlier article here noted, the recent report from the Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property shows a great deal of concern about the “scale of international theft of American intellectual property” which it estimates to be “hundreds of billions of dollars per year.” However, there’s also been a certain amount of

Phishing: the click of death

Recently we realized that from time to time when people find a live link in one of our blogs, they click on it to see where it goes, even though the context might suggest that the link could be malicious. So we thought it might be a good idea to set up a link so

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