Bio

David Harley

David Harley

Senior Research Fellow

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 2001, 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.

Articles by author

Spearphishing APT‑itude Test

My latest blog for SC Magazine's Cybercrime Corner looked at the recent APT (Advanced Persistent Threat) attack on RSA, in the light of Uri Rivner's blog on the implementation of the attack.  Unfortunately, the exact nature of the target and damage remains somewhat obscure, so while I certainly consider Rivner's blog worth reading, I also found myself

Threat Trends Report

The March Threatsense report at http://www.eset.com/us/resources/threat-trends/Global_Threat_Trends_March_2011.pdf includes, apart from the Top Ten threats: a feature article on Japanese-disaster-related scamming by Urban Schrott and myself news of the Infosec Europe expo in London on the 19th-21st April, the AMTSO and CARO workshops in Prague in May, and the EICAR Conference in Austria that follows the story of

More SC Magazine Blogs

In Giving the cybercriminals a helping hand, Randy Abrams discusses how most Facebook app developers are making session hijacking too easy for the cybercriminals. In A tsunami is also a crime wave I talk about the range of cybercrimes that have come out of the Japan earthquakes and tsunami. And in Supporters Club I return to

TDSS: The Next Generation

Win32/Olmarik (also known as TDSS, TDL, Alureon and sundry less complimentary names) has gone through some interesting evolutions in the last couple of years. TDL4 is no exception, with its ability to load its kernel-mode driver on systems with an enforced kernel-mode code signing policy (64-bit versions of Microsoft Windows Vista and 7) and perform

The Stuxnet Train Rolls On…

… albeit more slowly than previously. Added to the resources page at https://www.welivesecurity.com/2011/01/23/stuxnet-information-and-resources-3 today: A nice article by Mark Russinovich on Analyzing a Stuxnet Infection with the Sysinternals Tools, Part 1. Though I don't think Stuxnet is universally acknowledged as the most sophisticated malware ever. See, for instance, http://gcn.com/articles/2011/01/18/black-hat-stuxnet-not-superworm.aspx. (Hat tip to Security Garden for the pointer.)

Fining Support Scammers

The Australian Communications and Media Authority is planning to impose harsh penalties on support desk scammers. (Hat tip to Andrew Hayter for drawing my attention to that item.) According to chairman Chris Chapman, nearly half of all the complaints they've received about calls to numbers on the Do Not Call Register have been about cold-calling

SC Magazine: Cybercrime Corner

You may not be aware that ESET writers have been supplying blogs to SC Magazine for a while now. Recently, Randy Abrams and I were drafted in after the original contributors moved on, and we started contributing this week: Poachers and Gamekeepers considers whether there is a conflict of interest when AV companies work with

Facebook Ads: the Likes of You

Many Facebook users are annoyed to discover that their names and faces can be used in sponsored FB ads. Indeed, according to Dan Tynan in IT World, the next phase will to allow 3rd-party advertisers to do the same thing inside Facebook apps. I'm not a great fan of the FB principle of all your

Another VB Cybercrime Seminar

One that will be of most interest to our readers in the UK, I guess. Our friends at Virus Bulletin are holding another "Securing Your Organization in the Age of Cybercrime" seminar, this time on the Open University Campus at Milton Keynes on the 24th May. The full agenda is already available on that page, and

More unflattering imitation

[Update: more information from ESET on this malware here.] Last October, my colleague Tasneem Patanwala blogged about rogue antivirus masquerading as an ESET product. In that instance it was a product calling itself Smart Security, and Tasneem's blog includes lots of useful information about that particular malware, and fake AV in general. Looking through my

Hacking by Proxy

The BBC program Panorama last night investigated claims that the News of the World hired a hacker to break into a subject's PC to steal emails. In fact, it appears that the unnamed hacker installed a Trojan on the victim's PC. Which sounds like a fairly unequivocal breach of the Computer Misuse Act, which outlaws

BingDings* Force Change of Tune

* Sorry, but I couldn't resist a Crosby reference. I was more than a little irritated over the weekend – see Faith, Hope, Charity and Manipulation – by Microsoft's use of the Japanese disaster to give the Bing search engine a little extra exposure using a chaintweet technique: How you can #SupportJapan – http://binged.it/fEh7iT. For every retweet,

The Hole in the Wall Gang*

We've already discussed a lo-tech but surprisingly effective attack on ATM users here and elsewhere. However, Brian Krebs has recently posted on more conventional skimming attacks: Green Skimmers Skimming Green. An interesting and useful comment thread too. However, in view of the mentions there of chip and pin technology, it's worth pointing out that while

Disaster Scams and Resources

I've added some commentary and resources on the Japan earthquake/tsunami disasters to an independent blog I maintain that specializes in hoaxes, scams and so forth, but here are a few of the same resources that aren't already included in my recent blogs here on the topic: Analysis from Kimberley at stopmalvertising.com: http://stopmalvertising.com/blackhat-seo/recent-japanese-earthquake-search-results-lead-to-fakeav.html Guy Bruneau at Internet

Disasters: Getting Involved

From my friend Rob Slade. He was writing at the time of the Haiti earthquake over a year ago, but the advice still stands, and not just for those who are uncomfortably near all those fault lines that seem to have been particularly restless in the last year or two. Thoughts on Haiti, Olympics, and

Japanese Earthquake: inevitable SEO

As you'd expect, there have already been reports of Black Hat SEO (Search Engine Optimization) being used to lure people looking for news of the earthquake and subsequent tsunami onto sites pushing fake AV. (Stop me if you've heard this before…) My colleague Urban Schrott, however, offered some pretty good advice on what to look out

Stuxnet, SCADA and malware

Kelly Jackson Higgins in a Dark Reading article tells us that Malware Attacks Decline In SCADA, Industrial Control Systems, quoting a report published by the Security Incidents Organization drawing on its Repository of Industrial Security Incidents (RISI) database. One aspect that’s attracted attention on specialist lists is the mention of a large US power company

Ginger Rogers hoax

I've been coming across several references to an email and Facebook hoax relating to a YouTube that's claimed to show 92-year-old Ginger Rogers dancing with her great-grandson. Of course, it isn't: she died in 1995 in her 80s. This isn't a threat: it's a genuine movie and an interesting enough story to stand on its own,

Email malware: blast from the past

...today I'm waxing nostalgic about a piece of malware. Not one of those anniversaries that have filled so many blogs, articles and videos recently (happy birthday, dear Brai-ain....), but something that just popped into my mailbox...

Conficker Statistics

I just did some work on a report that quotes some of the various statistics – or do I mean guesstimates? – regarding how many machines were likely to have been infected by Conficker. That report has already gone out, but it’s been pointed out to me that the wording makes it sound like we’re

Conficker Clarified

I just happened upon a blog that made an interesting point about the information that’s been made about Conficker. Essentially, the writer was fulsome in her praise of an article by Gary Hinson here, which gave some simple advice on dealing with Conficker/Downadup. As it happens, I’m familiar with the name Gary Hinson: he also contributes

Trends in Security Software

I got asked “what is the big trend in security software at the moment”. It seems to me there are several significant threads to the answer, in terms of anti-malware. Dynamic and/or behaviour analysis. Dynamic analysis as implemented in mainstream antimalware is basically an automated version of dynamic analysis is used in computer forensics. In

Money for Nothing…

…no promise of chicks for free, but I did get spam this morning offering me a “Free-Trial kit” for some scheme for “making money through the Internet by doing almost nothing” (probably some sort of pyramid scheme, I guess, updated with a reference to using Google). While I’m not about to take up the offer, I

Confounding Conficker

[Update: Spiegl Online reports (in German!) that the total may be as high as 50 million infected machines: however, this figure seems to be extrapolated from the number of infections picked up Panda’s online scanner. Statistically, I’m not sure it makes any sense at all to try to correlate this self-selecting sample to the total population of

Global Threat Report 2008, other papers, and AMTSO

You may have noticed that I’ve been making a lot of references to this over the past few weeks. You can now download it here. Quite a few people have worked pretty hard to make this project happen, and I’d like to thank them now. I hope some of you will find it interesting and

Top Ten 2008 Threats

The top ten (twenty, twenty-five…) season doesn’t seem to have finished yet: the latest to cross my radar was something like seven ways of surviving the recession, which I’m sure is of interest to all of us, but not really in scope for this blog. So here’s a snippet from our 2008 Global Threat Report,

Conficker: can’t stand up for falling downadup

You might have noticed that Conficker (Downadup) is actually standing up rather well to all the attention it’s receiving at the moment. Heise UK reported that 2.5 million PCs are already infected (links removed, as Heise no longer seems to have a UK site and the articles have disappeared). In The Register, Dan Goodin reports that the

Sunday Miscellany

Here are a few rather disconnected items that I intended to blog about last week, but never had time to write up. First of all, an interview with an adware author from philosecurity.org that went up on 12th January. Excerpt: “Matt Knox, a talented Ruby instructor and coder, talks about his early days designing and writing

BCS Blogs

As a *Fellow of the British Computer Society (is that the sound of a self-blown trumpet I hear?) I get daily emails that I often don’t have time to read. Which is a pity, because when I do, I often find an interesting nugget. Sometimes I even get a paper magazine (remember those?) through the post,

Backscatter and Misdirected Email Alerts

This is bizarre, if slightly nostalgic. I spent a lot of time in the first half of this decade writing and presenting on problems with email filters that assumed that if the “From” field of an email header says that the sender was me@thenameofmysite.com (apologies to thenameofmysite.com if it actually exists, but I don’t think

Top 25 Programming Errors

Not one of our Top X lists, this time, but one featured in an article on the SANS site. SANS have been banging the drum for safer coding for quite a while – in fact, they do quite a few courses on safe coding in various development contexts. Admittedly, that gives them a financial incentive to fly

Magic Lantern Show in the UK?

Nigel Morris, of the UK’s “Independent” newspaper reported recently on new powers given to police in the UK and proposals to extend similar powers across the European Union. Understandably, civil rights groups like Liberty have apparently expressed the belief that such expansion of “police hacking operations” should be regulated by Act of Parliament and that there

Self‑Protection Part 10

And finally… Don’t use cracked/pirated software! These are easy avenues for introducing malware into, or exploiting weaknesses in, a system. This also includes the illegal P2P (peer-to-peer) distribution of copyrighted audio and video files: some of these are counterfeited or modified so that they can be used directly in the malware distribution process. Even if

Self‑Protection part 9

It occurs to me that I should make it clear that this “top ten” isn’t in any particular order. Like the other “top ten” suggestions by the research team that are likely to find their way here in the near future, they’re all significant issues that need thinking about. Point 9 (a short one!) is, don’t

Tweetie Pie Panic Revisited

Update: Graham Cluley’s issued a blog post  a couple of days ago suggesting that so far, at least some of the phishes described in our earlier blog about Twitter phishing have been used for old style defacement purposes rather than out-and-out fraud. (I suspect, though, that now this latest phishing genie is out of the bottle, there

Self‑Protection Part 8

Don’t expect antivirus alone to protect you from everything. Use additional measures such as a personal firewall, antispam and anti-phishing toolbars, but be aware that there is a lot of fake security software out there. This means that you need to take care to invest in reputable security solutions, not malware which claims to fix

Self‑Protection Part 7

If sensitive information is stored on your hard drive (and if you don’t have -something- worth protecting on your system, you’re probably not reading this blog…), protect it with encryption. Furthermore, when you copy or move data elsewhere, it’s usually at least as important to protect/encrypt it when it’s on removable media, or transferred electronically.

Twitter Security: Tweetie Pie Panic

[Update info moved to new blog post on 6th January] In deference to all those old enough to get a panic attack when reminded of how bad pop music was capable of being in the 1970s, I’ll try to overcome by the urge to mention “Chirpy Chirpy Tweet Tweet”. Anyway, to business. Having all the

Digital Photo Frames and the Autorun Problem

Speaking of SANS, the Internet Storm Center has more than once talked about problems with digital photo frames, and at Xmas did so again with reference to the well-publicised Samsung incident. The San Francisco Chronicle came up with a story a couple of days ago that was even more alarming, and not only in the volume