Malware’s Threat to Data Security is Focus of Kusch Lecture

2013 Speaker Leads Team Seeking Solutions at Cyber Security Research and Education Institute

Kusch Lecture Series poster

The 2013 Polykarp Kusch Lecture starts at 1:30 p.m. Friday, April 19, in the McDermott Library Auditorium (MC2.410).

The cyberattack on U.S. Central Command, the organization that oversaw U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a few years ago was considered the worst computer attack in military history. A new form of malicious code was suspected: reactively adaptive malware – computer code that can adapt and change to evade common detection methods.

Experts in the Cyber Security Research and Education Institute (CSI) at UT Dallas are leaders in the development of innovative techniques to detect this type of malware before it can inflict harm. For this year’s Polykarp Kusch Lecture, Dr. Bhavani Thuraisingham, an expert in data security and data mining and executive director of the CSI, will discuss reactively adaptive malware and techniques being created at UT Dallas to thwart this adversary. Her speech is at 1:30 p.m. Friday, April 19, in the McDermott Library Auditorium (MC2.410).

“Just as traditional antibiotics do not work on infections that have mutated into new strains, new tools and techniques must be developed for reactively adaptive malware,” said Thuraisingham, professor of computer science in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science and a Louis Beecherl Jr. Distinguished Professor. “People need to understand the dangers associated with this type of malware. Fortunately, our experts are working on new solutions.”

Dr. Bhavani Thuraisingham

Dr. Bhavani Thuraisingham, who will deliver this year's Polykarp Kusch Lecture, is an authority on data security and data mining.

Data mining models can detect traditional malware on a computer system by recognizing patterns that have already been flagged as malicious. The constantly changing patterns of reactively adaptive malware evade this detection mechanism.

Thuraisingham will discuss SNOD (Stream-based NOvel class Detection) methods being developed by CSI members to combat this reactively adaptive code, and new ways of approaching the problem using psychosocial models to understand the hacker. She will also draw the analogy between a virus attacking the human body and a virus attacking a computing machine.

“The work being done in CSI is of national significance,” she said. “We now have expertise in several cybersecurity research areas, collaborations with numerous University departments, $20 million in research funding and $3 million in education funding. I am honored to share our work on reactively adaptive malware and the solutions we are developing with the broader community as part of the Kusch tradition.”

The Polykarp Kusch Lecture Series

Polykarp Kusch was the 1955 Nobel laureate in physics. He joined UT Dallas in 1972 and was a UT System Regental Professor. When he retired, the University endowed a program of annual lectures with the theme “Concerns of the Lively Mind” in his honor.

Before coming to UT Dallas, Thuraisingham worked primarily in the industrial and government sectors. After 9/11, she joined the National Science Foundation for three years and started research programs in data security and participated in data mining initiatives for counterterrorism. She came to UT Dallas in 2004. She has authored 12 books, and more than 100 journal articles, 200 conference papers and 100 keynote and invited addresses.

She is a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She has received numerous awards, including the IEEE Computer Society’s 1997 Technical Achievement Award and the 2010 ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) SIGSAC Outstanding Contributions Award for her work in data security.

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