Author
David Harley
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.

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

Support scam cold-calling: the next generation

Stop me if you’ve heard this before… While I was in London recently for the InfoSec exhibition and some other meetings, my wife received a call from a lady with a heavy Indian accent, who told her that she had errors on her computer caused by viruses, and offering to remove them for her. For a fee, of course…

Job Scams: Nice Work If You Can Get It

The new ESET blog format must be striking a real chord with people. At any rate, job offers are just pouring in. Except that they don’t seem to be jobs for security bloggers, or for web developers like the team that maintains this site.

Win32/Cridex: Java pushes Cyprus into a Blackhole

Banking crisis in Cyprus is now being used in a spam campaign promoting the Blackhole exploit kit and the Win32/Cridex Trojan.

Phishbait: not so much a Smile as a rictus

Below, you can see the textual part of a bank phishing email I received today (it also contained a Smile logo, which was the only graphical content).  Here’s the message text from the phishing email:  Dear Account Holder, Do you know that with Smile Internet banking, you can eliminate the cost of receiving and transferring

Hundreds of thousands of Facebook likes can certainly be wrong

Issues with malware are always with us. There may or may not be a current media storm, or companies hoping for a slice of the anti-malware pie by proclaiming the death of antivirus in a press release, but AV labs continue to slog their way every day through tens of thousands of potentially malicious samples.

Scam conference invites: a tale of several cities

An invite to a conference in California proves to be a scam, and a very similar spam claims the very same conference is taking place in New York in March.

Who goes there? Identity and multiple authentication factors

Correct identification of an individual using a computer or service is important because it represents the accountability of the person identified. If you know my username on a computer system, you can check on what I do on that system through an audit trail, and I can therefore be held accountable for those actions. However,

Free AV and relying on the luck of the Irish

ESET Ireland’s Urban Schrott has blogged recently that “Research reveals nearly half of all Irish computers depend on free antivirus for protection”.

It’s a wonderful hoax

In a world where nothing seems to be constant but change, it’s good to know that there are, in fact, some things that change fairly slowly. Unfortunately, readiness to believe and spread hoaxes is one of them.

Mystery shopper scam: misery shopping

Money for nothing? Don’t believe it: a variation on the Mystery Shopper scam that misuses the Pinecone Research brand.

More on that Java vulnerability

  [Update 2: a note for Mac users in Turn off that Java Lamp. And Brian Krebs notes that Oracle Ships Critical Security Update for Java] [Update to a link at java.com offering more information on disabling Java in web browsers.] This is a quick pointer to blogs posted by our colleagues in Spain and in

2012 malware Top Ten and revisiting 2012’s Threatblog

Apparently we posted 235 blogs here in 2012, just a fraction under 20 blogs per month on average. So this would be a perfect moment to produce one of those summaries of the year’s activities that wordpress.com provides, telling you how many people viewed your blog site and how many times they’d go round the

Imperva, VirusTotal, and whether AV is useful

Offending the AV industry is one thing, but do you want to base a security strategy (at home or work) on a PR exercise based on a statistical misunderstanding? (Yes, I’m being diplomatic here…)

Phishing and malware – keep Smiling through…

Three current phishing gambits and email-borne malware currently getting past normally efficient email filtering.

Phishing and the Smile on the Face of the Tiger

Two rough and ready phishing emails that nevertheless tell us a great deal about the social engineering underlying more sophisticated, graphic-rich scams.

Malicious Apache Module: a clarification

Apache modules are add-on code taking advantage of the Apache module API to extend the functionality of the standard Apache distro. In this case, the binary’s functionality was malicious, but there is no exploitation of a known Apache vulnerability in this case.

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

10 Ways to Protect Yourself: Part 6

Don’t disclose sensitive information on public websites like FaceBook or LinkedIn. Even information that in itself is innocuous can be combined with other harmless information and used in social engineering attacks. Rather than expand on that point, for now, I’m going to point to another “10 ways to protect yourself” resource: the more good advice

10 Ways to Protect Yourself: Part 5

Don’t trust unsolicited files or embedded links, even from friends. It’s easy to spoof email addresses, for instance, so that email appears to come from someone other than the real sender (who/which may in any case be a spam tool rather than a human being). Basic SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) doesn’t validate the sender’s

10 Ways to Protect Yourself: Part 4

Use different passwords for your computer and on-line services. Also, it’s good practice to change passwords on a regular basis and avoid simple passwords, especially those that are easily guessed. As Randy pointed out in a recent blog, it’s debatable whether enforced frequent changes of hard-to-remember passwords are always constructive (they can force the user to write down

Ten Ways to Protect Yourself: Part 3

Log on to your computer with an account that doesn’t have “Administrator” privileges, to reduce the likelihood and severity of damage from self-installing malware. Multi-user operating systems (and nowadays, few operating systems assume that a machine will be used by a single user at a single level of privilege) allow you to create an account

Castlecops: more comments

Further to my post of 25th December about the withdrawal of the CastleCops services, there’s a blog at Darkreading that includes more information, including some quotes from Paul Laudanski, who was, with his wife Robin, the driving force behind the organization: also quotes from our own Randy Abrams, David Ulevitch of PhishTank, and Garth Bruen

MD5/SSL: is the sky falling?

Lots of fuss  was made about the paper presented at the Chaos Communication Congress in Berlin yesterday by Alexander Sotirov et al. The paper describes a proof-of-concept attack using a weakness in the MD5 cryptographic hash function to create a rogue Cerification Authority certificate using a hash collision (essentially, two messages with the same MD5

Ten Ways to Protect Yourself: Part 2

Here’s the second instalment of the “ten ways to dodge cyberbullets” that I promised you. Keep applications and operating system components up-to-date with automated updates and patches, and by regularly reviewing the vendors’ product update sections on their web sites. This point is particularly  relevant right now, given the escalating volumes of Conficker that we’re

(One out of) Ten Ways to Dodge Cyber-Bullets

It’s that time of year when everyone wants a top ten: the top ten most stupid remarks made by celebrities, the ten worst-dressed French poodles, the ten most embarrassing political speeches, and so on. Our research team came up with a few rather more serious ideas, most of which are considered at some length in our about-to-be-published

Sending Malware Information to ESET

I’ve just picked up a comment to a previous blog that pointed to what I presumed to be a malicious URL. We’re grateful for all such information, but for obvious reasons, we won’t approve comments that point to malicious code! You can find information here about how to forward malware samples, malicious URLs or false positive

Castlecops: End of an Era?

This is a sad item for Christmas Day morning. Castlecops have been making considerable efforts to fight crime on the Internet in many areas (surviving many an attack from the bad guys in the process) for a long time, but seem to have suspended the service on 23rd December. I hope there’s nothing more sinister

Multi-Layering and User Education: a random thought from AVAR

I promised you some more thoughts on the AVAR conference. Randy Abrams and I put together a paper on user education for the conference (it should be up on our White Papers page quite soon) about the argument between the two main camps in security thinking on the topic. You could sum it up as

Internet Explorer Problems

It probably isn’t news to you that there’s been an issue with Internet Explorer and a recently-discovered vulnerability that exposes users of the application to a range of attacks. Certainly we’ve been getting lots of enquiries about our ability to detect it, and I suspect other vendors are getting the same barrage of questions. Of

After AVAR: Normal Service is resumed…

Given our recent attempts to keep the blog flow more consistent, you might have noticed that we’ve been very quiet for the past couple of weeks. That has a lot to do with the fact that Randy Abrams and I have been in India for a meeting in Chennai, followed by the AVAR (Association of

VB100 test results (53 today!)

December’s Virus Bulletin includes a comparative test for a number of products on the Windows Vista x64 platform, giving us our 53rd VB100 award. To get a VB100, a product needs to detect all “In the Wild” viruses on-demand and on-access, with no false positives. Note that “In the Wild” here refers to replicative malware

Global Threat Report

You may be aware that in addition to our semi-annual global threat trends reports, we also do a monthly report. Much of this report is trend analysis based on data from our ThreatSense.Net threat tracking system. ThreatSense.Net® is an advanced threat tracking system which reports detection statistics from tens of millions of client computers around the

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