David Harley
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David Harley
Senior Research Fellow
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Education? Academic background in modern languages, social sciences, and computer science.

Highlights of your career? I was a late starter (1986) as an IT professional, beginning at the Royal Free Hospital, then with the Human Genome Project (1989), then at Imperial Cancer Research Fund (1991-2001), where I wrote/co-wrote/edited a number of Internet FAQs and my first articles on programming and security. I presented my first conference papers in 1997 (at Virus Bulletin and SANS). In 2001 Osborne published Viruses Revealed (co-written with Robert Slade and Urs Gattiker): VR and the later AVIEN Malware Defense Guide (Syngress) – to which Andrew Lee also contributed – are probably the best known of my books. When I rejoined the UK’s National Health Service in 2006, I ran the Threat Assessment Centre and was the go-to person nationally for malware issues. I left to work as a freelance author and consultant in 2006, which is also when I began to work with ESET.

Position and history at ESET? Senior Research Fellow at ESET N. America. Primarily, I’m an author and blogger, editor, conference speaker, and commentator on a wide range of security issues. Like the rest of the industry, 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 scammers, 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 gig and record when time allows), 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 (primarily a word-processor) in 1986. What else would you expect a not-very-rich author to buy in 1986? :)

Favorite computer game/activity? Extra-curricular writing (blogging, verse and lyrics, articles). Digital photography and miscellaneous artwork.

Support Scammers: Hoping to Reign in Spain?

More about the support scammer trend towards finding victims in Spain who aren’t fluent English speakers.

Bootkits, Windigo, and Virus Bulletin

ESET research on Operation Windigo received an award at Virus Bulletin 2014. Our research on bootkits was also well received, and is now available publicly.

Support Scams: Expect the Scammish Inquisition*

An update on support scams: but are the scammers looking for fresh fields and posturings new?

4Chan: destructive hoaxes and the Internet of Not Things

The media have associated a number of destructive hoaxes with 4chan: people need some historical perspective on how the site actually works.

Virus Bulletin presentations update

Updated information on ESET presentations at Virus Bulletin 2014.

Virus Bulletin, AVAR conferences: a tasty Conference Pair*

Autumn: the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, not to mention a couple of excellent security conferences. Virus Bulletin and AVAR make a very tasty Conference Pair.

Anyone want to know my Social Security Number?

Your home may be your castle, but on social networks, your friends are your perimeter. Will they enclose and protect your personal data?

Shaggy Dogma: Passwords and Social Over-Engineering

Given the ‘nightmare’ that is password management, is Microsoft right to say that it’s sometimes OK to re-use the same memorable password on several sites?

Support Scam: Old Racket Still in Service

One of the support scam sites used to mislead victims may be down, but the scam definitely isn’t about to go away.

Chip & PIN & Signature, Magstripes and EMV Go-Faster Stripes

The US is still perceived as a hotspot for card fraud: what difference will the ongoing roll-out of Chip & Signature EMV make?

World Cup scams: an early kick-off

Amazingly, it was way back in 2011 that I came across my very first World Cup 2014 scam. Surely that merits a prize, or at least a pay-rise?

Support Scam Using (MS-)DOS* Attack

The never-ending Windows support scam often misrepresents obsolete MS-DOS utilities. But three simple rules will bypass most of that social engineering.

Virus Bulletin review: 2 eBooks offering security guidance

An article for Virus Bulletin by David Harley reviews two eBooks offering security advice to consumers.

XP-diency: beyond the end of the line

Can’t yet upgrade from XP? Recommendations are being made by Gartner and others for staying (relatively) safe.

Privacy, Social Media, and the Younger Generation

When parents post photographs and information about their children to social media, what are the privacy implications for those children when they’re grown? What happens on the internet tends to stay on the internet, and not necessarily in a good way.

The Internet of Things isn’t a malware-laced game of cyber-Cluedo… yet

Will the future be a murderous game of ‘smart device’ Cluedo, where Colonel Mustard meets his death at the hands of a Wi-Fi pacemaker, and Miss Scarlett is consumed in a Smart Home-ignited blaze. Not likely, says David Harley – where’s the profit motive?

Better Mac Testing: Static versus Dynamic Testing

Dynamic or on-access Mac testing of AV products is problematical with samples for which Apple has implemented signature detection.

Better Mac Testing? How OS security can make AV testing harder

As Mac malware increases in prevalence, testing security software that supplements OS X internal security gets more important and more difficult.

More Mystery Shopper Misery

‘Highly-paid’ mystery shopper assignments where you’re sent cashier’s checks upfront can end up costing you a lot of money.

Courier Scams – don’t give away your bank card

If someone rings you up to tell you that your bank card has been compromised, it may be because they want to get their own hands on it.

Netflix phish, tech support scam, same phrying pan

Yet another innovative tech support scam, using Netflix phishing to get remote access to the victim’s system.

Scams: Tech Support, Accident Insurance, PPI, Oh My My

It’s not just fake tech support: call centre cold-callers are operating various kinds of insurance scams, too.

Tax Scams, Malware, Phishing and a 419

A roundup of scam information, including a tax scams article, email with a link to malware, a phish, and the worlds laziest 419.

Wangiri Telephone Fraud – One Ring to Scam Them All

Missed a phone call? The Better Business Bureau says answering international telephone fraud calls looking like US calls might cost you more than you think.

419 Scams: Let The Seller Beware

419s are a well-known scam type, but some scams are more obvious than others. And sometimes it’s the seller who’s cheated not the buyer.

Tech Support Scams: Second Byte at the Cherry

Is there really anything new to be said about tech support scams? Unfortunately, the FTC tells us there is. Not only because people are still falling prey to this type of fraud, but because the scammers are still finding new approaches to harvesting their victims’ credit card details. Some quite interesting, sophisticated technical tricks are

2013: a View to a Scam

There are plenty of scams effective enough to rate a warning or three, in the hope of alerting potential victims to the kind of gambit they use. And so, even though much of ESET’s business is focused on the bits and bytes of malicious software, I’ve spent a lot of time writing on WeLiveSecurity and

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?

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 now responds to ICMP echo requests – in other words, if you now run the command “ping” you should now see a screen something like this: Note that this is perfectly normal behaviour for a site that responds

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