David Harley | WeLiveSecurity

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

Is it Safe? – Book Review

Still trying to catch up with blogs previously promised. I did say that I might review Michael Miller’s book “Is it safe? Protecting your computer, your business, and yourself online”, and indeed I did. However, the review was published in this month’s Virus Bulletin (March 2009), so I can’t use it here. Here’s a somewhat

When is a Hoax not a Hoax?

Embarrassingly, I keep catching myself promising to come back to a topic and never getting round to it, however often I try to blog here. (The server is gradually filling up with my half-completed drafts!) There are just too many interesting things happening and not enough time to record them all here – this isn’t, after

BBC Botnet Revisited

[update] Commentary by Larry Seltzer for eWeek:   http://www.eweek.com/c/a/Security/The-British-Botnet-Corporation-324874/ I don’t promise that this is my last word on the subject, but, having now seen the full Click programme and the BBC’s response to some of the criticism they’ve received, I found I had a few more things to say on the topic. If you aren’t

More on the BBC’s Botnet

Update: several nice, thoughtful blogs on the subject from John Graham at http://john-graham.me.uk/. International law firm Pinsent Mason’s Struan Robertson seems to agree (at least in part) with commentatory in the security industry that the BBC have broken the UK’s Computer Misuse Act. Robertson, focused on the Click program’s unauthorised access to 22,000 bot-compromised PCs in order to

BBC Controversy: Click Fraud?

I spend so much time on this blog, that I’ve been neglecting the other blogs I’m supposed to contribute to from time to time (including my own, though I’ve just started to put some papers up there – more about that later). However, as the issue with the BBC’s possible breach of the UK’s Computer

Patches Despatches

In a previous blog relating to Acrobat vulnerabilities, I suggested that you might want to sign up for Adobe’s alerts service. I did, but still haven’t received any news from it. However, it appears that The Register (or one of its sources) did, so I’m nevertheless aware that Adobe has released updates to address the

Signed Updates and Social Engineering

Someone raised an interesting point in a comment to yesterday’s blog about Symantec’s own PIFTS.EXE being flagged by their own firewall as a possible problem. Let me quote the comment in full. I by no means buy into the super root-kit routine, I do however think that there will be copy cats (if not already)

PSST! It’s PFTS!

PSST! Anyone remember the Telephone party game, also known by various politically incorrect names like Chinese Whispers and Russian Scandal? A series of reports like this and this illustrate a textbook example of how rumour and misunderstanding (some of it probably wilful) can transform a story into something very different to its original form. According

The Only Good Worm is a Gummy Worm

From time to time the discussion of whether or not there are (or can be) good worms comes up, usually specifically in the context of program maintenance, updates and upgrades. In fact, the idea of maintenance viruses goes back at least as far as Dr. Fred Cohen, who pretty much "wrote the book" on early

Conficker Resurgent

It appears there are interesting developments in the Conficker/Downadup development front. Peter Coogan of Symantec describes here a variant that doesn’t appear to be interested in infecting new machines, rather more so in updating and protecting itself on systems already infected with previous variants. (And, yes, ESET’s ThreatSense technology does already detect it heuristically!) It seems to have

Excel Exasperation, Acrobat Aggro

As The Register has pointed out, the Microsoft Security Bulletin Advance Notification for March 2009 doesn’t mention a forthcoming patch for the Excel vulnerability we’ve already flagged in this blog here and here and here. Since, as John Leyden remarks, the exploit is being actively exploited, it may seem that Microsoft are not taking the issue seriously

Phishing Persistence

Here’s something I haven’t noticed before (but then I don’t pay nearly as much attention to phishing messages as I used to, owing to the need to sleep occasionally). I’ve started to receive messages purporting to be from the Alliance and Leicester, in the UK. The messages are much the same, apart from the Subject

Fraud in (and out of) a Time of Recession

I’ve been asked several times in the past few months about links between the global recession and criminal activity, especially as related to fraud. There are, of course, those who claim that the economic situation is directly caused by "criminal" activity by politicians and banks, which is a little further than I’d care to go personally. What

Acrobat Amendment

A reminder about about the Acrobat reader vulnerability we blogged about several times recently (http://www.eset.com/threat-center/blog/?p=593, http://www.eset.com/threat-center/blog/?p=579, http://www.eset.com/threat-center/blog/?p=572). Remember I said “As we’ve said previously, disabling JavaScript, while it doesn’t address the underlying vulnerability, stops known exploits from working properly”? Predictably, there are now known exploits that don’t use the JavaScript heap spray trick. While I’m

Zombies Down Under

The estimable Graham Cluley’ drew my attention in his blog to the fact that this is National Zombie Awareness Week in Australia. A zombie is security geekspeak for a PC that has been infected by a bot or agent, so that it’s added to a network of compromised machines (a botnet) under the control of

Heartland and Shadowlands

This is a follow-up up to my previous blog regarding the price of data loss. Heartland Payment Systems lost another 30% share value a few days ago (actually, 25th February, but it’s been a busy week!) – down to $5.34/share (at the beginning of 2009 – prior to the breach they were between $16-$18 per

Targeted Excel Malware Revisited.

Further to our blog last week on targeted attacks exploiting a vulnerability found in a number of Excel versions including  Mac versions, viewers, and the Open XML File Format Converter for Mac. While we already have a specific detection for the threat we call X97M/TrojanDropper.Agent.NAI, we also have generic detection for the exploit, flagged as X97M/Exploit.CVE-2009-0238.Gen. This detection

Phish Phlags

Here’s a phish one of ESET’s partners drew our attention to: it’s aimed at users of Maybank (http://www.maybank2u.com), the largest financial services group in Malaysia. The scam is somewhat more elaborate than many we see, and it’s worth a little analysis to see what flags we can extract from it for spotting a phisher at work From: Maybank

EXcel EXploits

Our guys in Bratislava have issued a press release about one of the latest examples of the current wave of Excel exploits, which we detect as X97M/TrojanDropper.Agent.NAI. When the malicious Excel document is opened, it drops the backdoor Trojan we call Win32/Agent.NVV, which allows a remote attacker to get access to and some control over the

Phishing the Web

A new advisory from the Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) offers advice to website owners on what actions to take when notified that their site or server has been compromised for use by phishers. At 18 pages, it’s a substantial high-level document, including: Some web site phishing attack and response scenarios Identifying an attack Reporting a