Welsh tech experts using ‘intelligent system’ to battle malware during Euro 2016

Computer science experts from Cardiff University have deployed an ‘intelligent system’ capable of tracking malicious viruses on Twitter during Euro 2016.

The aim here is to crack down on the number of malicious viruses that are spread on social media, with the researchers trawling through thousands of suspicious links on Twitter.

They’re using a trained computer, often called an intelligent system, to analyse thousands of inconspicuous URLs that are attached to tweets talking about the ‘Euro 2016’ tournament in France.

This experiment will let the team test bed and further refine their computer system, while also gathering more information about different types of viruses and software – collectively called malware.

The team hopes the information can aid law enforcement in developing a future warning system that can signal when a malicious link is posted online and be used through an app.

Euro 16 has been used to trial the detection systems because of the vast volume of tweets that are being sent about the event. Experts say eight of the 10 most tweeted about events are sports related.

Developed at Cardiff University, the system is searching for ‘drive-by-downloads’, a name coined for malware that’s downloaded onto a PC after a user visits a website. .

Dr Pete Burnap, director of the social data science lab in the school of computer science & informatics at Cardiff University, said: “It is well-known that people use online social networks such as Twitter to find information about an event.

“URLs are often shortened on social media due to character limitations in posts, so it’s incredibly difficult to know which are legitimate.

“Once infected the malware can turn your computer into a zombie computer and become part of a global network of machines used to hide information or route further attacks.

“At the moment many existing anti-virus solutions identify malware using known code signatures, which make it difficult to detect previously unseen attacks. Our system is making a decision using code behaviour, which is more difficult for cyber criminals to mask.

He added: “We are trying to build systems that can help law enforcement authorities make decisions in a changing Cyber Security landscape. Social media adds a whole new dimension to network security risk.

“This work contributes to new insights into this and we hope to take this forward and develop a real-time system that can protect users as they search for information about real-world events using new forms of information sources.”

Image credit: Christiaan Colen